The Toxic Avenger, Arts Theatre | Review

Tuesday 3 October 2017

The Toxic Avenger
Arts Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 2nd October 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

When seeing this show, you should take it like it takes itself: not too seriously. Based on the 1984 cult movie, The Toxic Avenger received its New York premiere in 2009 before enjoying a short run at London's Southwark Playhouse in 2016. Most recently it played at the Edinburgh Fringe and has now opened a limited run at the Arts Theatre. 

Set in New Jersey, where pollution has over taken the city, we meet Melvin the dweeby teenager (in love with the town's blind librarian) who is thrown into a vat of toxic waste, becomes the Toxic Avenger and vows to take justice into his own hands.  The plot is bonkers but easy to follow and the production celebrates this wackiness with a clever and genuinely funny script. The fourth wall is broken and it becomes a game of spot the musical theatre reference; from Hamilton to Mary Poppins to Phantom- they're all in there somewhere!

The humour is unashamedly crude and whilst this is refreshing to see on stage, it sometimes becomes a bit too much. With the same jokes repeated several times and therefore loosing any impact. The "blind girl almost walking off the stage" was especially repetitive.

Whilst not all of the music is particularly memorable, the cast perform it with exuberance and stellar vocals throughout. Mark Anderson is wonderfully awkward but gentle as Melvin and 'Toxie'; his voice is beautiful and he overacted just enough to avoid the whole thing becoming too silly. Natalie Hope's vocals are outstanding, both as Toxie's mother and the woman who's to blame for the pollution: the mayor! She is humourous, sexy and an all round, brilliant entertainer. Emma Salvo as Sarah is funny and crude but still sweet; her Oprah obsession is hilarious and her vocals are fantastic. The rest of the towns people are impressively brought to life by Ché Francis and Oscar Conlon-Morrey. From the town bullies to the hairdressers with "indistinguishable accents", they do a stellar job.

Takis have done a great job of using the space of the small Arts Theatre well, with a clever set design that means the stage never feels cramped. It's simplistic but effective as are the costumes which also have many musical theatre references within them. It's a very cleverly done show in terms of intricate details.

This is a non-pc show thats fun, lighthearted and silly. If you're easily offended then it's not for you but for a blast of fun and some sublime vocal performances then pop along to the Arts Theatre. 

The Toxic Avenger runs until December 3rd at The Arts Theatre.