Writer: Oladipo Agboluaje
Director: Suzanne Gorman
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
In The Croydon Avengers, aimed at 8-14year olds – though the consistent toilet humour seems more targeted to younger audiences – three asylum seekers decide to become crime-fighters in an effort to be accepted by the British. It’s a well-intentioned play, but ultimately it is too confusing.
With crime rising in London and police appearing helpless to stem the increase in knife and moped crime particularly, it may be inadvisable to encourage our children to become vigilantes. Granted, Petr, Laure and Aisha are meant to be superheroes with superhero powers, but the London they live in is too realistic for this to be torn from a comic book as they chase down thieves in Croydon chicken shops and deter muggers in South London alleyways. But they have met their match when they meet a new foe – Regina Rump, a businesswoman who wants to use nuclear weapons against illegal immigrants.
It’s a complicated story to pack into 45 minutes, made harder to understand by poor quality videos, and, at one point, poor sound quality too. Crucial scenes appear to have been left on the rehearsal floor; for instance, how did our heroes save Regina’s son Reginald? How did they get these superhero powers in the first place? Despite the dogged charm of our heroes, the storytelling needs to be much stronger here.
Writer Oladipo Agboluaje chooses not to reveal too much about the plight of asylum seekers, perhaps saving these discussions for the aftershow workshops, or for the classroom. We find out why Petr is seeking refuge in Britain – he’s a gay footballer from Chechnya who hopes to play for England one day – but the stories of Laure (from Congo) and Aisha (from Iraq?) are hardly developed at all, and these characters sometimes seem quite flat next to Petr.
However, in time things begin to fall in place. The comic timing of Theo Toksvig-Stewart as Petr begins to work, with the friendship between Nicole Sawyerr and Shala Nyx as Laure and Aisha becoming more than a trading of insults. Their attempt to bring down Regina – a chilly Tania Rodrigues – finally brings laughs from the audience.
There is some audience participation – volunteers are given questions to ask Regina at press conferences – but perhaps these could take place on stage, rather from the confines of the seats, so a younger audience could really feel part of the proceedings. However, these are early days for The Croydon Avengers and hopefully in time our heroes will find their feet, as well as their Supermen capes.
Runs until 23 June 2018 | Image: Barnaby Aldrick