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Superhero review at Southwark Playhouse, London – ‘immaculately crafted’

Michael Rouse in Superhero at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Alex Brenner Michael Rouse in Superhero at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Alex Brenner
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A one-man musical is a risk. There’s little or no opportunity for dialogue, and every chance the score may be limited in style. There’s nothing to hide behind.

The beauty of Superhero is that it anticipates and counters each of these issues. It’s more than just a song-cycle, rather a full-on piece of contemporary musical theatre that addresses a contentious issue in a wholly engaging style.

Following a separation from his wife, Colin gradually finds access to their daughter more and more difficult. When his wife announces that she wants to relocate to California and take their daughter with her, Colin is shocked to discover that there is little he can do about it. A chance meeting with Fathers4Justice forces him to face his fears and finally make a stand for equal parental rights.

Michael Conley’s book introduces us to the self-effacing, unambitious Colin as he rehearses his courtroom custody plea. It’s an intelligent device that allows the backstory to unfold naturally and lends an urgency to Colin’s situation.

Joseph Finlay’s diverse score sweeps through a range of styles, while remaining in step with the narrative and Richy Hughes lyrics are in turn witty and incisive. The writing is superb and this is matched by intuitive musical direction from Joe Bunker and Georgia De Grey’s practical set design. Michael Rouse gives a bravura performance as the flawed but likeable Colin.

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Immaculately crafted, engaging and emotive piece of contemporary musical theatre