I am very surprised that the Southwark Playhouse's production of THE TOXIC AVENGER did not fall foul of the right-wing press last week - here we were in the week of the London Mayoral elections and we are presented with the ultimate Green eco-warrior who is eventually voted to high office. I mean to say - where were the Daily Mail headlines? God knows they have kvetched about less...
To be honest I was quietly dreading going to see this. When I worked in the film poster shop we had piles of stuff on the TOXIC AVENGER exploitation films from the perennially-annoying Lloyd Kaufman's Troma Studios and I built up an aversion to it. Added to that it was written by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan who gave us the crashing bore that was MEMPHIS. And then it started - and within a few minutes I thought "This is from the guys who wrote MEMPHIS??" It has a hoot!
Although the show and score strive too often to be the new LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS it actually survives on it's own insane brio and is greatly helped by the committed cast - they certainly act at times like they should be - ha! See it's catching...
Benji Sperring's production rattles along on it's daft premise - corrupt mayor tries to silence an eco-geek who gets too close to the truth about his New Jersey town's pollution and has him thrown into a vat of toxic waste which turns him into an avenging monster (not a million miles away from The Incredible Hulk) putting his blind librarian girlfriend at risk - and along the way crams in more refreshingly non-pc stereotypes than the librarian can shake her stick at!
The thumping score, while not very memorable, is good fun while you are there and "My Big French Boyfriend" sung by the blind librarian when she mistakes Toxie's mumbling for French is great fun and Owen was still happily singing the first act closer "Bitch Slut Liar Whore" when we went out for our interval drinks. Luckily he had pre-ordered them so he wasn't singing it to the woman behind the bar!
I found Mark Anderson's Melvin Ferd III/Toxie to be a bit underwhelming but I think that is because he cannot help but be overshadowed by his other cast members - all four of them! Hannah Grover is great fun as Sarah the blind librarian who seems to fall over a lot and needs guidance to find her stick - eventually admitting to the audience it's because a cast member has to change costume. She was huge fun as was Lizzii Hills in the dual role of the corrupt mayor and Melvin's mother, none more so than in the afore-mentioned "Bitch Slut Liar Whore" number which is a duet - with herself!
But by far the winners of the hardest-working actors currently on stage are Ashley Samuels and Marc Pickering who play everyone else in the show and get through more quick changes in as few seconds as you will ever see. Businessmen, punks, old ladies, folk singers, professors, cops... they do it all, and a lot of the fun of the show is seeing what these very funny performers will turn up in next. My favourite has to be Sarah's New Jersey girlfriends Shinequa and Diane, two low-rent skanks!
THE TOXIC AVENGER is on until the 21st May and if you want a fun night of filthy pollution and even filthier jokes then head on down to the Southwark Playhouse - it's a monster!