The Toxic Avenger – Southwark Playhouse

Claire Bilyard.

Hannah Grover and Mark Anderson in The Toxic Avenger at the Southwark Playhouse, London. Picture: Claire Bilyard

The Toxic Avenger continues at the Southwark Playhouse, London until 21 May.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

It’s a tale as old as time. Boy meets blind girl, turns toxic due to exposure to hazardous waste, goes on to save the environment and eventually wins over the girl.

Okay, so it might not quite be the premise of Batman or Superman – nevertheless this is the story of The Toxic Avenger

The show is based on the 1984 B movie of the same name. Melvin (Mark Anderson) is a geeky New Jersey boy who turns into a toxic, green mutant after being dropped into a container of toxic waste when he gets on the wrong side of the Mayor (Lizzii Hills).

As if saving the world isn’t enough of a challenge for nerdy Melvin, he is also trying to win over the heart of a beautiful and blind librarian called Sarah (Hannah Grover).

Perhaps The Toxic Avenger, directed here by Benji Sperring, is such a successful musical remake of the film because it so effectively mocks its own staginess with references to other shows. They ‘break’ to let Sarah find her way offstage and, best of all, there is the casting of the generic ‘White Dude’ (Marc Pickering) and ‘Black Dude’ (Ashley Samuels) – who play a multitude of hilarious characters.

A highlight of the show would have to be the song that closes Act I, ‘Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore’ (yes, the name does show promise). Lucie Pankhurst offers a wonderfully choreographed sing off between Melvin’s mother and the Mayor – both played by Hills – and it just gets more and more bizarre and brilliant.

Without a doubt this show will challenge your ability to stomach the absurd. If silly is your style then you will laugh your head off from start to finish. The gruesomeness of the unlikely superhero’s victims is overly exaggerated and Sarah and Melvin’s (or Toxie, as she goes on to call him) relationship is far from your Lois Lane or Mary Jane Watson.

Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics) and David Bryan (music and lyrics) were also behind the award-winning musical Memphis, although you should expect an entirely different tone in this fun pop-rock soundtrack. The songs have been interestingly titled: ‘Thank God She’s Blind’, ‘Evil is Hot’ and ‘Choose Me, Oprah!’, just to name a few.

Sarah manages to sum up the entire show in one line: “Violence is always wrong, even though it’s often entertaining.”

Tal Fox

Tickets for The Toxic Avenger are available HERE.

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