The Toxic Avenger,
Based on Lloyd Kaufman’s The Toxic Avenger,
Southwark Playhouse,
Book/Lyrics/Music: Joe DiPietro, David Bryan
Producer: Aria Entertainment in association with the King’s Head Theatre
Director: Benji Sperring
Musical director: Alex Beetschen
Cast: Mark Anderson, Hannah Grover, Lizzii Hills, Marc Pickering, Ashley Samuels
Dates of run: Until May 21
Running time: 130 minutes, including interval.

 

In our modern, toxic world, the perfect embodiment of the endless struggle between good and evil could be the green warrior versus the polluter.

Ultimately, that’s the premise of The Toxic Avenger, the rock musical, which director Benji Sperring happened to see during one free afternoon  off-Broadway in New York in 2009.

Seven years on, he has brought the musical based on a 1984 cult film to Europe for the first time.

A full-on, energetic five-strong cast has the crowd mostly roaring with laughter, but Sperring’s rabble-rousing misses a trick that could elevate the production from the broad and silly to richer, more emotionally engaging and acutely topical fun.

Barring a throw-away reference to the quality of Thames water, he elects not to draw out parallels with London’s own pollution problems and mayoral electioneering, and instead leaves us rooted in New Jersey.

Mike Lees’ hammer horror set is a celebration of the mock sinister, but would acquire immediate menace if we imagined it to be on our doorstep.

From the cast’s ebullient high-spirits, the most genuinely laugh-out-loud moment is an absurd piece of doubling by Lizzii Hills, who plays the Toxic Avenger’s mother and the evil mayoress at exactly the same moment.

As the Toxic Avenger himself, Mark Anderson mutates from drippy, environmental nerd to a rampaging cartoon hulk, who scoops up Hannah Grover as theridiculously scantily-clad blind librarian Sarah.

Their foils are Marc Pickering and Ashley Samuels as respectively White Dude and Black Dude who revel in camp cross-dressing, which depending on your taste is riotously funny or a joke that wears thin.

Barbara Lewis © 2016.

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Mark Anderson (2)
Mark Anderson (3)
Mark Anderson, Hannah Grover (2)
Mark Anderson, Hannah Grover
Mark Anderson
Ashley Samuels, Lizzii Hills, Marc Pickering
Ashley Samuels, Mark Anderson, Hannah Grover, Lizzii Hills, Marc Pickering
Hannah Grover, Mark Anderson (2)
Hannah Grover, Mark Anderson
Marc Pickering