I’m not really much of a comic book fan. Having said that, I do know many of the characters that inhabit the Marvel and DC worlds. In fact, I could probably put together an alphabet of superheroes from Captain America, through to Professor X. But, how many on that list would be female? Probably not a lot. There is definitely a higher ratio of male to female superheroes in the comic book universe. However, that ratio has now changed thanks to Fat Rascal Theatre and their creation Vulvarine, who has flown into the King’s Head Theatre this week.
High Wycombe is a boring town where nothing ever happens. This is particularly true for tax clerk Bryony Buckle (Allie Munro) who, after saying goodbye to her cat, Elton, spends her working day at the desk she shares with her best friend Poppy (Katie Wells) thinking about lunch and dreaming about her co-worker Orson Bloom (Jamie Mawson). Then two events happen to change Bryony’s life. First, Orson asks her to help him with some work, and gives her a file to go through, and the second is a visit to her doctor to get her cough seen to. The file raises some questions about the final destination of The Tampon Tax and its link to a charity run by Sonya (Steffan Rizzi). And the visit to the doctor completely revolutionises Bryony’s life and brings her into contact with The Mansplainer (Robyn Grant). Can good triumph over evil? Will Poppy see her dearest wish fulfilled and will Bryony finally get her Orson? Only the “saviour of womankind” Vulvarine has the answer.
There are many words I could think of to sum up Vulvarine. The first that comes to mind is ‘bonkers’ and that is swiftly followed by ‘fun. Because this show really is both of these. Its starts with a song that will probably not endear itself to High Wycombe – commenting on how boring the town is – and just charges on from there on Bryony’s journey from mild-mannered clerk to superhero. Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx’s Book and Lyrics along with James Ringer-Beck’s music – with around twenty songs during the 70 ish minute runtime – form a fast-paced and believable story. Well in the superhero genre at least. There are a wide range of songs, covering a range of styles. Some are slow and powerful – ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ for example – while others like ‘The Mansplainer’ are loud raucous and have some great choreography from Jed Berry and Allie Munro. My two favourites were the love song – set in a prison with laser cells – ‘The Office Boy and Vulvarine’ and the gross, but brilliant cat solo ‘Licking My Anus’ in which Bryony’s cat, Elton (under the control of Robyn Grant) nearly steals the show.
A multi-talented cast play a variety of roles and genders with Allie Munro being constantly at the centre of things as Bryony/Vulvarine. It is impossible to pick anyone out for special praise as this is a cast where every member is like and individual gear that links together to form a well oiled and perfectly running machine. One thing that is obvious is that every person on the stage is thoroughly enjoying themselves with that happiness spilling out over the footlights to give the audience the joy of Vulvarine’s world.
Vulvarine was a bit of a wow at last year’s Edinburgh festival, and its arrival in London is very welcome. It is a wonderfully crafted show that redresses the low number of notable female superheroes in fine style. The overall themes are not particularly subtle but, even when having a male character mansplaining ‘mansplaining’ it never feels like an anti-man show and, after a long old week in the day job, it was just the thing I needed to get me ready for the weekend. Ultimately, Vulvarine is an awesome story of men, women, cats and superheroes and is a very welcome addition to the musical theatre genre.
Review by Terry Eastham
Following an outpouring of new superhero musicals with a male protagonist, Vulvarine is a tongue-in-cheek comedy with a feminist message; and after the release of superhero movies with a social and political focus such as Black Panther and Wonder Woman, Fat Rascal Theatre believe that now is the time for a new politically relevant superhero musical, combining pop culture and musical theatre with gender discussions to create a fresh, funny and relevant new show.
Cast Robyn Grant, Jamie Mawson, Allie Munro, Katie Wells, Steffan Rizzi
Book Robyn Grant
Lyrics Robyn Grant and Daniel Elliot
Music James Ringer-Beck
Choreographer Jed Berry
Associate Director Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie
Lighting Design Declan Randall
Sound Design Candice Weaver
Vulvarine and Mansplainer
Prop Design Hugh Purves
Vulvarine: A New Musical
Producer Laura Elmes for Fat Rascal Theatre
King’s Head Theatre, June 11th – July 6th
Full tour dates visit Fat Rascal Theatre website: