Bananaman at Southwark Playhouse
Bananaman is the latest new musical to hit the Southwark Playhouse. Released from the Beano comic and our TV sets Bananaman is now unleashing his own special form of theatre. The musical tells of how an ordinary boy, Eric Wimp becomes Bananaman. With the help of his friend Crow they rescues both his crush Fiona and the whole of Acacia Road when they are faced with Dr Gloom, General Blight and Mad Magician.
This musical is literally bananas! It certainty had me laughing although sometimes I was unsure if this was out of general bemusement or due to the fact that it was genuinely funny. The moments that were the craziest were the ones that worked the best. When you are telling a comic book story like Bananaman then the absurdity of it needs to be embraced whole heartedly and at times the writing could have embraced this further.
The perfect example of embracing the whole bonkers premise and storyline was encapsulated perfectly by Mark Pickering who played Dr Gloom. He was brilliantly over the top and he felt as if he had stepped straight off the pages of a comic book.
The music did let the show down and whilst I was laughing away to some of the numbers at the time they failed to have catchy refrains. In some of the wordier numbers I also found it hard to catch all of the lyrics, potentially missing some of the comedy as a result. Some of the numbers were also even more random than the show as a whole and I struggled to work out how they enhanced the show. The primary example of this was ‘Bad Magic’ which opened Act 2.
Despite this the cast performed all of the numbers well. Jodie Jacobs as Crow had a standout voice and it was a shame that it wasn’t shown off to its full potential. Jacob’s not only delivered her songs well but her puppetry skills had a nice level of detail and the puppet, although simple worked well.
Matthew McKenna was the yellow man himself and he also kept the energy and comedy up throughout. At times I would have liked him to be even more over the top in his posture and movement to enhance the comedy further.
The set and props were also clumsy and made it feel more fringe than needed. A set of stairs was constantly moved around to enable the cast to move between two levels but this was distracting and often unnecessary. I did however love Bananaman’s costume. It was the spitting image of the costume from the comic and it was a shame that the set didn’t meet this high quality.
Bananaman is an utterly bonkers show but needs to be even more larger than life with a rewrite on some of the music and a careful look at the set to go from utterly bonkers to brilliantly bananas.
Bananaman runs until 20th January at Southwark Playhouse. You can book tickets via their website.