Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Theatre review: Superhero

In most ways the temporary Southwark Playhouse venue at Elephant and Castle has been an improvement on the one they’ll be returning to next year, but I can’t say I don’t miss the London Bridge one in the summer, when the fact that the smaller auditorium, The Vault, was so far into the network of railway tunnels meant it was cool, even in the middle of a heatwave. No such luck at The Little, which has no air conditioning and was pretty unbearable tonight – in fact I’m not sure how well I can even review Superhero because my main take from it was wondering if I’d make it to the end of the 90 minutes without passing out. I suppose one thing you can take in its favour is that I didn’t escape into the night, which is a tribute to Jeremy Corbyn Michael Rouse, the performer in this one-man musical by Michael Conley (book,) Joseph Finlay (music) and Richy Hughes (lyrics.)

Rouse’s charm is one of the main virtues of Superhero, which could have been called Fathers 4 Justice – The Musical if it weren’t for the fact that mentioning that particularly unpopular protest group would be unlikely to do ticket sales much good.

The group only gets mentioned once by name in the show but it’s not hard to see where the inspiration comes for a story about a man who dresses up in a superhero costume and climbs tall buildings – despite a fear of heights - to try and get access to his daughter. Rouse plays Colin Bradley, a stay-at-home dad who had a one-night stand* and found his marriage collapsing around him, and his time with his daughter Emily limited to one day a fortnight. The framing device is him in court, pleading with the judge not to let his ex-wife move to LA with Emily, and with the songs we follow Colin’s reminiscences over life with his family before it broke up, and the love for his daughter that makes him go to extremes to keep seeing her.

The script, Rouse’s performance and Adam Lenson’s production are all endearingly funny and charming – they need to be, as this is essentially a very one-sided view of the story, that tells us Colin still loves his ex-wife but gives us little to work with as to why we should like her: His one-night stand is the only reason he acknowledges for the divorce, while the picture we get of her is of a careerist with a vindictive streak. It’s ultimately sweet though, with a likeable performance and enjoyable enough tunes. Too bad that while it’s only Colin who’s in front of a judge, the heat and stuffiness in the room makes this a trial for everyone.

Pictured: Me, after the show

Superhero by Richy Hughes, Joseph Finlay and Michael Conley is booking until the 22nd of July at Southwark Playhouse’s Little Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes straight through.

Photo credit: Alex Brenner.

*this takes place after he meets a woman in an am-dram production of Carousel and they “take their characters back with them” after the show which… is more disturbing than romantic if you’ve actually seen Carousel

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