Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Review: Bat Boy the Musical at the Southwark Playhouse
Ginger Hibiscus | Review: Bat Boy the Musical at the Southwark Playhouse
Ginger Hibiscus | Review: Bat Boy the Musical at the Southwark Playhouse
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20 Jan REVIEW: Bat Boy the Musical at Southwark Playhouse

For a moment suspend your ability (and desire) to discern the plausible from the implausible. Take your mind to Hope Falls, or rather to “a cave many miles to the south,” of Hope Falls, where a boy, half human, half bat, has been found living in an underground chamber. In his fright at being disturbed he bites a girl, serving only to heighten the media frenzy around his existence, and transforming him from a character of intrigue into an object of fear and suspicion. Back in Hope Falls, he’s taken to the home of the local veterinarian, Mr Taylor, who’s persuaded by his wife to spare the life of the creature, before she embarks on a new hobby of educating him into a functioning member of society. But can a boy who’s grown up devoid of any human contact learn to speak and learn how to behave – and can the ultra-conservative community ever accept him as one of their own?

With more than a faint whiff of Edward Scissorhands about both concept and storyline, to make any kind of lasting impact Bat Boy had to somehow be made distinctive and memorable. Aside from an enjoyable contemporary score and strong vocals, that somehow comes in the form of the production- and specifically in the form of the perfectly-judged projections from Morphic Graffiti. From expressing moments of mundane domestic mediocrity to grabbing the audience back as they teeter on the edge of a WTF cliff, the projections are unusual – an unusually effective – for a musical. Artistically quirky, they’re the saving grace at one of the barmiest moments of the musical, and at other times a beautifully dynamic contribution to the set.

The projections play into an overwhelming impression of watching a cartoon being acted out on stage; some terrible wigs and painfully irritating accents complete the pastiche, with small-town-America clichés galore. But a bit like The Rocky Horror Show, Bat Boy inhabits some serious guilty pleasure territory, with catchy songs that keep your feet tapping all the way home, and an ability to create comedy (yes, that’s actually funny comedy) from the darkest of topics, and without being overtly offensive.

It’s impossible to write about Bat Boy: The Musical without mentioning Bat Boy himself, Rob Compton, the star of the show both in name and in execution. His body contortion and movement are perplexingly accomplished, transfigured into an almost alien creature that’s mesmerising to watch, a charming and convincing depiction that’s the difference between Bat Boy being a silly little parody and an enormously enjoyable muscial.

There are numerous criticisms that could be levelled at Bat Boy,/em> but it really does feel like a musical for the Buzzfeed generation. With a bizarre cultish appeal, if you’re able to leave any affection you might have for plausibility at the door, you’re in for a brilliantly bonkers evening.

Dates:Friday 9 January – Saturday 31 January 2015


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Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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