Something nasty is brewing in the city of Tromaville just off the New Jersey Turnpike across the water from the beaming lights of Manhattan, something which has crept across the ocean into the Pleasance for a series of dates as part of the Edinburgh Fringe before transferring to London’s Arts Theatre from late September through to early December: toxic nuclear waste.
Based on Lloyd Kaufman’s notorious low budget superhero comedy horror, The Toxic Avenger is reborn not through further exposure to noxious waste products but through the equally dangerous medium of the musical, originally adapted for performance in New Jersey, appropriately enough, by Joe DiPetro and David Bryan in 2008.
With an impressive multi-level set bathed in sickly green light, the Earth is in crisis through global warming and pollution and Tromaville has become a dumping ground for all that is worst through a backhander deal courtesy of the duplicitous Mayor Babs Belgoody (Natalie Hope), possessed of a stunning belter of a voice and a line in tight red leather business suits which (she hopes) will distract the electorate for the most part from her lack of morals.
Immune to this is the sweetest girl in town, blind librarian Sarah (Emma Salvo) who knows where the real dangerous material is hidden, the records which prove the link between the Mayor and the dangerous chemicals, documents which she passes onto her timid sweetheart Melvin Ferd III (Mark Anderson).
Finding the courage to confront the Mayor with the evidence even when he cannot ask Sarah on a date, Melvin instead finds himself thrown into a vat of toxic waste by her hired goons Sluggo and Bozo (Ché Francis and Oscar Conlon-Morrey). But that is not the end, for from the waste rises the Toxic Avenger (Toxie to his friends), prepared to defend his city from environmental offenses and those who cause them.
Adaptation to a new medium can enhance an existing story and even bring to the fore themes which were secondary in the original, for example the expanded characters and anti-racist message of the musical version of John Waters’ Hairspray, but The Toxic Avenger pretty much maintains the consistency of a typical Troma film even though the underlying message of environmental responsibility is even more relevant and urgent now than when the film was released in 1984.
It is the unfortunate lot of many a late billed Fringe show to inherit the cumulative delays of the day, particularly on opening weekend, and it is not the fault of the production that this performance runs in excess of forty minutes late, though the overloud backing band which too often drowns the cast and makes the lyrics unintelligible should be rectified as the run proceeds, and given the strength of their voices they deserve to be heard properly.
Unlike the George Square Theatre which has hosted Re-Animator the Musical and Cannibal The Musical the Pleasance largely precludes the cast interacting directly with the audience in the manner of those shows, but the energy onstage helps compensate for the somewhat monotonous power rock score, particularly the perpetually scene-stealing Francis and Conlon-Morrey in the rotating wardrobes of their multiple support roles.