The Croydon Avengers
Reviewed – 20th June 2018
“sophisticated, even slick, staging serving an unsophisticated plot”
Recently endowed with superpowers, the Croydon Avengers take the Ovalhouse by storm on a mission to fight crime and bring justice and peace. Inspired by Maya Productions ‘Superheroes: South of the River’, a project involving young Londoners including young refugees, writer, Oladipo Agboluaje, draws a budding junior audience into a world they can relate to, a world of comic books, superheroes and martial arts. With energy and enthusiasm, Petre (Theo Toksvig-Stewart), Laure (Nicole Sawyerr) and Aisha (Shala Nyx), three refugees from different ethnic backgrounds, set out to show that they are not helpless and needy, but are ready to fight for their places in British society. But Regina Rump, played by Tania Rodrigues, fears they are a threat to British identity and orders her media empire to stop them. Will her political influence overcome the trio? Or will their strength and determination prove too powerful even for her?
Director, Suzanne Gorman, creates a fast-moving narrative, interposing live action with clips of video, illustration, audio and audience participation. The fluidity of the complex coordination of images (Victor Ross) and sound (Riz Maslen) together with the functional set designed by Marina Hadjilouca, which neatly adapts to change the scenes, helps to hold a school-age audience’s attention. The lighting (Katherine Williams) works to emphasise dramatic moments but could be used to greater effect in keeping with a comic book’s exaggerated visual impact.
The cast work well to form a team yet portray three individual stories with empathy. They discuss and debate their different backgrounds, their journeys to the same situation, their confused feelings and their determination. Tania Rodrigues’ Regina sheds light on a dissonant viewpoint; she, like many, does not see the refugees as victims. It’s not always easy to say whether plays of this simplistic and fast-moving kind make children think about the predicaments of refugees unless they have some follow-up or prepping. In any case its saliency would vary between and within audiences. Eight-year-olds, who are included within the production’s target range, would enjoy it as a superhero comic brought to life. At a school with displaced students it’s likely to be powerful, fulfilling a deep need for representation. For the more mature, young adult audiences such as that at Ovalhouse, it borders on trite; sophisticated, even slick, staging serving an unsophisticated plot and a moral that the newcomer’s desperate need to fit in can be resolved through positivity and teamwork. Not for everyone, but in the scripting, projections and interplay of the young performers, some hidden theatrical superpowers are on display.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Barnaby Aldrick
The Croydon Avengers
Ovalhouse until 23rd June