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Full Stage Splash – King’s Arms, Salford

Director: Michael Eeckett

Reviewer: Dave Cunningham



full stage splashThe Sigil Club seeks to make shows no one else is producing by merging theatre with pop-culture influences. In the case of ‘Full Stage Splash: A Comic Look at the Comic Book’ superhero comics are the outside influence. An average theatregoer might have an interest in how a medium that started as a cheap disposable read has become the basis for major blockbusting films and, arguably, an art form. Unfortunately, this show will make them no wiser.

‘Full Stage Splash’ is dreadfully muddled to the extent it is very hard to determine the point that writer/ director/ performer Michael Eckett is trying to make. It is structured as a series of rapidly–spoken lectures setting out the chronological development of superhero comics interspersed with wacky humorous interludes in which, well actually, it’s hard to be sure what is going on in those bits.

Superhero comics have been around for over 75 years so a show of this nature desperately needs concision and clarity. But instead Eckett constantly bogs down in detail and, even if you are such an enthusiast for the medium that you can spot the references, their purpose remains unclear. Eckett has little interest in setting a wider context for the subjects raised in the play. The development of the Comics Code, that regulated and effectively censored content, is shown but its relationship to the McCarthy political witch-hunts is not explored. Although this is about superhero comics Eckett also squeezes in references to related publications – undergound, Manga – that make the show even more crowded and messy.

The strong influence of the masters of reductive style ‘The Reduced Shakespeare Company’ is apparent in the more comedic elements of the play. The four members of the cast take on the rôles of specific and generic superheroes occasionally slipping out of character to speak as themselves and generally mess about. The well-known characteristics of superheroes (for example Spider-Man being a motormouth martyr) are largely ignored so the cast dressing in masks seems pointless. Occasionally some point about superheroes being vigilantes gets made but the comedy sequences are hopelessly confused and just not funny.

‘Full Stage Splash’ will irritate fans of comics, baffle the average theatregoer and satisfy no one.

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