Pendulum Productions’ Hero-Man is a bizarre and bad-mannered comic musical about the eponymous hero, played by Reef Ronel: an ultra-macho defender of the realm who defeats evil antagonist Joel Fernandez’s Reknaw on a weekly basis. Hero-Man is assisted by Martin Lindill as Tim, and his canine pal Zap, played by Sarah Davies, who throw their own zany brand of humour into the mix. The 45-minute show finds our Champion of Justice and his entourage facing their toughest challenge yet: an unremitting Reknaw, Tim embittered by his sidekick status, and the appearance of a mysterious woman, Sophia Heller’s Sinep.
This is a musical of scanty outfits, big, peculiar-looking swords (Hero-Man wields… what? A novelty pair of scissors?) and even bigger (male) egos. A Freudian interpretation would be well-suited, I’m sure. It is all an obvious pastiche of over-sexualised Hollywood superheroes, but it’s when I see costumes such as these that I bemoan the under-subsidised British theatre scene; if only the budget was a little more generous, perhaps they could have afforded to use more material. Indeed, the scarcity of material also applies to the script’s sense of innovative humour. Victims of the gratuitous comic violence on display include Reknaw’s balls, Tim’s hand (actually a Marigold melodramatically thrown into the air), and the idea that I am a serious critic of the theatre. Zap’s powers of olfaction alert her when something doesn’t smell quite right, and one would be justified in pointing to the jokes – which haven’t gone off inasmuch as they were never fresh in the first place – as the source of the unpleasant odour.
I would have said this was more fool them if I hadn’t enjoyed it so much. When Ronel and Fernandez barely make an effort to conceal grins showing delight that their outrageous gags are landing rather successfully, as well as the fact that they are simply having a good time, one can’t help but smile with them, and everyone else in the theatre. And so, directly following this funny little comedy musical’s somewhat abrupt denouement (even the lighting guy grabbing his parka to disappear as soon as he has dimmed the stage) what remains is an audience in irruptions of laughter.
At Burton Taylor Studio until 22nd February