Mon 17th – Sat 29th August 2015


Michael Roderick

at 23:14 on 17th Aug 2015



It’s a tricky thing to pull off an all-appealing family show. I feel only sorrow for the parents who arrive at show marketed as fun for all the family, only to find some hideous two-hour spectacle filled with winsome little men, idiot goofs and tediously condescending clowns. To delight both parent and child is a hard task, but it’s one that Supertown, written by James Sidgwick and Robert Sanders, manage to do. The audience loved it, and as I surveyed those around me I realised that both adults and children wore the same expression; one little boy beamed with joy throughout. So did his father.

A musical, the play tells the story of the eponymous town, watched over and guarded by groups of caped crusaders, most prominent of these being Thunderman, a superhero as much revered as he is arrogant and meat-headed. Thunderman enthralls the entire citizenry; that is, all except one dorky guy called Ste (Matt Stirk). His dislike of the superheroes is exacerbated by the fact that his love interest Sally (Sophie Massa) seems far interested Thunderman than him, and the pain of unrequited love drives him to hatch a plan to prove that Thunderman isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. It’s a classic (if somewhat overused) story: dorky guy can’t get girl, who’s more interested in fist-brained berks and morons. Girl eventually succumbs to dorky guy’s advances

The design of the play is entirely influenced by classic comic books. Most of the characters wear garish primary colours. The superheroes, of course, have their tights and pants on the front and capes. The play seems highly aware of itself as living up to these clichés. Some of the best humour occurred when the script became ironic or self-referential, rather than monotonously naïve. But then, that bespeaks how well the writers have managed to please all ages. I was struck, too, by the amount of sexual humour – all very clean, of course, and all very tasteful, and still quite funny.

Musically, the show is a joy to listen to, with most of the cast being at least capable singers. The songs were catchy and fun, and the dancing was spot-on too. The chorus of minor characters had great amounts of energy. Unfortunately, some of the acting was a bit lacklustre and I sometimes felt that the cast simply strolled through the scenes storing their energy for the next song. One character really did stand out as a shining excellence, however: Claire Sidgwick as Dog Woman, a fantastically stupid hero who’s superpower is to think and act like a dog. She was hilarious, and wonderfully spirited. She delighted the audience.

All in all, the play is sweet and simple fun. It’s not that sophisticated, but it’ll entertain pretty much anyone you can think of – man, woman, child or even dog.


Poppy McLean

at 00:46 on 18th Aug 2015



Supertown, a new comedy musical for all the family by writing partners James Sidgwick and Robert Sander, sets up as its protagonist a grumpy ‘normal’, trying to get noticed in a town seething with beaming, lycra-clad heroes, encompassing varying degrees of ‘super’.

The show certainly didn’t lack any plot threads of the classic underdog story, and all the necessary characters duly materialised, some going down especially well: audience members of all ages enjoyed the canine antics of Claire Sidgwick’s ‘Dogwoman’, cheeky chappie sidekick ‘Zapper’ (James Sidgwick) and retirement-hungry supervillain Dreadman (Dave Collins). Sophie Massa also made for a very engaging love interest. The costumes were neon-bright, keeping the stage-space fun and lively for the child-heavy audience, an effect also achieved by the use of disco-like lighting. The small space, surrounded on three sides by the audience, seemed on occasion a tad cosy for a cast of fifteen, and it may be that being so close to a chorus in full flow meant that musical-esque choreography came across as slightly clunky, especially in the fight scenes, which sometimes became comically fumbling. Generally, though, the choreography was very smooth, and had clearly been well practised. The singing was accurate if not stellar, and lines were generally audible and occasionally delivered with great comic timing – James Sidgwick as the zero-to-hero Zapper was especially skilled at prompting laughs, providing genial banter to contrast refreshingly with the melodrama of other characters, making him (perhaps unintentionally) far more likeable than the moody protagonist.

So why three stars? Essentially because for me (and, it seemed, the majority of an audience whose real hearty guffaws could probably be counted on a single pair of hands), Supertown does not bring anything especially new or memorable to the table. Its script is never particularly exciting or amusing, the dialogue sometimes appearing to be simply whatever is needed for the plot to move on, and, while catchy, memorable tunes and lyrics dripping with wit (rather than just baldly repeating characters’ feelings – although here Dreadman’s ode to Spain must be cited as an exception) are by no means vital for a satisfying family comedy (as some of the crowd’s enthusiastic applause at the end demonstrated), they help, and would often have helped here. As it was, every now and again I met eyes with other members of the audience – especially younger children – apparently too bored to keep up with a script that seemed to have decided to settle with far less ‘super’ writing and score than its moments of successful comedy would suggest the writers are capable of. As things are, the show plumps for sufficiency, and provides an innocuous hour and a half which left most of its audience satisfied, but not starstruck.


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