Pleasance One, Edinburgh
Lloyd Kaufman’s 1984 movie, The Toxic Avenger has long been held in high esteem by cult movie fans – one of those ‘so bad it’s good’ guilty pleasures, it spawned several sequels and made the transition to musical in 2008. Prior to a new London run, it’s arrived at the Edinburgh Festival, where its riotous blend of rock music, camp silliness and hilarious bad taste make it a perfect fit for fun-seeking audiences.
The town of Tromaville is being overrun by pollution and its citizens are crying out for a hero to come and save them. The nerdy Melvin Ferd (Mark Anderson), longs to be that hero, if only to impress the love of his life, Sarah (Emma Salvo), a blind librarian. But when he gets tossed into a vat of nuclear waste by a couple of thugs, he emerges transformed into the world’s first toxic superhero, taking on the town’s corrupt mayor (Natalie Hope) and her two evil henchmen, Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Che Francis. OK, so he’s prone to tearing the odd innocent person apart limb-from-limb, but hey, nobody’s perfect, right?
A musical in the same vein that made Little Shop of Horrors such a pleasure, The Toxic Avenger is an unqualified delight, romping happily along powered by its own exuberance and the efforts of a stellar cast, who give this everything they’ve got and then some. Salvo is possessed of a voice so powerful that it occasionally threatens to blow the roof off the Pleasance, while Hope performs an exhausting sequence where two characters do battle with other (she’s playing both roles), that must set some kind of record for lightning-fast costume changes.
You don’t need to be familiar with the original film to enjoy what’s on offer here. Indeed, if you’re looking for a night of galumphing, undemanding entertainment this is definitely worth seeking out.