This show is ‘appeeling' to all. It has incredible comedy, fantastic songs, an excellent cast and some truly garish costumes. Bananaman The Musical is an absolute must see.
think Carry On films with a Marvelesque twist and a dash of pantomime-like absurdism.
Aimed at ages 6+, like The Simpsons in it’s heyday, Bananaman The Musical has the impressive ability to be both scandalously naughty yet entirely family friendly. Children and adults will appreciate the performance for entirely different reasons. For the adults there are are some excellent double entendres and insinuations to enjoy - think Carry On films with a Marvelesque twist and a dash of pantomime-like absurdism.
For children this show is sidesplittingly funny but carries powerful messages. Alongside its roaringly funny jokes and sight gags this show manages to explore the serious issue of schoolyard bullying without turning into an American style after school special. Bananaman follows the adventures of Eric Wimp, who is beautifully portrayed by Mark Newnham. Newnham plays the schoolboy character convincingly and is able to entirely endear Eric to the audience, even during moments when his character is fully embodying the stereotype of a moody preteen. Eric is bullied by his classmates and struggles to express himself. Children will identify with Eric and perhaps, through his journey, feel a little better about the ups and downs they’re experiencing in school. UK pupils are purportedly the unhappiest in the world so a show like this, that can use comedy to reach out to kids in such a significant way, is incredibly vital.
Eric’s love interest is, notably, a very well-crafted, substantial character. Though at times rather naive, Fiona Mullins, played fiercely by Emma Ralston, is the type of female protagonist that children should be used to meeting across all the mediums of storytelling. She is smart, kind, independent, brave and self-sufficient.
The comedy within this performance is absurdly good. At numerous points in the performance the actors had to pause to allow the audience enough time to control their laughter. The costumes are excellent but the props are pointedly poor-quality. The actors are able to use this to their advantage, stealing laughs with every low-budget item. The prison bars made of foam were a particular delight.
This is a show powered by a banana-fueled superhero and some very very evil super-villains. Bananaman has a lot of muscles and a low IQ, actor Matthew McKenna portrays him excellently; he creates a lovably dim-witted and earnest, yet tough hero. Overall though, the villains stole the show. Marc Pickering, who plays Dr Gloom, gives the stand out performance. Dr Gloom is so perfectly put together - the costume, lines, voice and physical movements of the character are simply fantastic. Pickering takes full advantage of every moment he has onstage, he is incredibly watchable. Dr Gloom’s scenes with Carl Mullaney’s General Blight, the other supervillain, are the greatest, and often funniest moments of the entire performance. Their songs together are a triumph and their bickering is hysterical.
Leon Parris deserves high praise for creating such an incredibly well-written comedic performance - his songs will stay with you long after you’ve left the playhouse. Mark Perry’s direction is a triumph and Grant Murphy’s choreography, especially during the ensemble pieces, is excellently put together and often mesmerising. The set and costume designer, Mike Leopold, deserves a special mention for his ingenuity and flair.
The best thing about this show is that you could bring your partner, your best friend or your child and they would all love it. So there’s really no reason not to get there before the run ends on the 20th January.