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Review of Superhero at Southwark Playhouse

Michael Rouse in Superhero at Southwark Playhouse. Credit Alex Brenner
Michael Rouse in Superhero at Southwark Playhouse. Credit Alex Brenner

It’s daring, in some respects, to not have a traditional musical theatre ending to Superhero, in which a father fights for the right to exercise his responsibilities towards his child. It’s unusual for me to feel that way with regards to a musical – look at 42nd Street or School of Rock the Musical with their fabulous celebratory endings and encores. This, then, is one of those contemporary British musicals where the emphasis is on plot and character development, rather than song and dance.

There is, mind you, plenty of song and dance to enjoy – this production gets through fourteen musical numbers in under ninety minutes without the show feeling rushed. There is little to be achieved in trying to extrapolate Colin Bradley’s (Michael Rouse) particular situation to every situation where couples have separated, a point underlined in ‘Other Children’s Parents’, where the distinction is made between the way Colin looks after his own flesh and blood, and the wider world.

This fresh look at parental rights and responsibilities demonstrates how long it can take for a musical to develop and get produced. ITV broadcast a television drama called Whose Baby? back in 2004 and yet, as far as I am aware, the London stage has not had a musical dealing primarily with such themes as this until now. Here, as is often the case with one-person shows, events are seen through only one perspective – I would have liked to have heard from Colin’s solicitor Rupert directly, for instance. And if Rupert really is the ‘bell-end’ that Colin insists and insists, and then insists some more, that he is – why didn’t Colin just get himself another lawyer?

Colin is no misogynist, referring to his ex-wife Christine as a “bloody good um ” to their daughter. Streaks of dark humour keep breaking through, too. The lyrics are a pleasure to listen to. The band, led by Joe Bunker, punch above their weight, given there’s only three of them. Some clever and observational wit comes along in a decent portrayal of the harried and hurried nature of caring for a dependent child.

I particularly enjoyed Colin’s quip, in spoken word, about group therapy being ill-advised – there can indeed be fewer things worse than being a single father with depression in an enclosed space with other single fathers with depression. The comedy fails spectacularly to trivialise the serious issues raised in the plot; rather, it endears the audience to Colin all the more. After a slightly stiff first half, things perk up in the second when the show goes all-out with ‘All American Dad’ and then later, an eleven-o’clock number, ‘Don’t Look Down’.

The sound design (Andy Hinton) is impressive, allowing Michael Rouse’s Colin Bradley to flit effortlessly between private conversations and projecting to a courtroom. Quite why there’s an extended reference to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel in a show like this would be revealing too much. But it’s worth looking out for. Judging by the audience reaction at curtain call, this show is a winner. A bittersweet and brisk production, and as tight as the pants of the superhero costume Colin puts on.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

‘Good afternoon, your honour. I’m Colin Bradley. I’m here today to ask you, your honour, not to let Christine Davis, my ex-wife, move out of the country with Emily Bradley, my daughter.’

Colin is a loving husband and stay-at-home dad who adores his daughter. But mistakes are made, and he finds himself in the fight of his life climbing Big Ben dressed as a superhero. How did he get here? And why couldn’t he get a bigger cape?

SUPERHERO is a world premiere one-man musical that shows how you can ignore your fears when the stakes get high – really, really high. Featuring the Stiles and Drewe award-winning song ‘Don’t Look Down’, SUPERHERO is a heartwarming story that looks at what it means to be a parent in the twenty-first century – with or without the cape.

Creative Team
Director – Adam Lenson
Michael Conley – Book
Joseph Finlay – Music
Richy Hughes – Lyrics
Musical Director – Joe Bunker
Cast – Michael Rouse

Tim Johanson Productions presents
Superhero
by Richy Hughes, Joseph Finlay and Michael Conley
Based on an original idea by Richy Hughes
28TH JUNE – 22ND JULY 2017

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1 thought on “Review of Superhero at Southwark Playhouse”

  1. Pauline Benson

    Came with my son and daughter tonight to see WORKING. As the performance was cancelled we decided to stay and see SUPERHERO. Sorry that WORKING wasn’t on, but glad in a way because we got to see this brilliant performance by Michael Rouse. In the heat of the small space with no air conditioning on a very hot night, Michael Rouse was indeed a superhero in a moving one-man story of a divorced dad and his efforts to see his daughter.

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