Soaring like a bird. Or is it a plane?Johannes Hjorth

‘Super’, a new comedy from writer and director Eli Keren, soared like a bird (or even a plane) into the ADC’s Lateshow slot this week. Providing a fresh interpretation of the problems of superheroes and their powers, by replacing all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with the basement of a Korean restaurant, the play almost achieved greatness but was let down by inconsistent pacing.

Much of the humour comes from Keren’s unique array of characters and their portrayal by an adept cast. ‘Super’ is a clever spin on classic superhero clichés in its mix of satire and allegiance to well-established motifs. Keren’s script offered up some comedic gems that went down well with the audience and laughs came in response to single-syllabled swearing followed by a strategic blackout as much as they did from the more obvious comedy. However, several moments of comedy gold were not picked up on by the audience; partly due to the play’s quick pace or the lines’ delivery over audience laughter or another character’s line.

Some of these great jokes (a reference to an Adele lyric being my personal favourite) were not given the time needed for them to breathe and resonate with the audience. Therefore some of the more intricate humour of the script fell victim to the overall snappy, energetic performance of the comedy. Timing was also a slight issue as there tended to be both moments when actors spoke over each other and moments of awkward pauses; which both could be attributed to opening night jitters.

Interwoven with the levity of the play, there is a certain gravitas in the form of the hard-life backstories of several characters. Beth Dubow as ‘Dream Weaver’ stood out as particularly capable of portraying both the comedic and troubled aspects of her character. She performed particularly well in scenes where she was left alone on stage despite theoretically sharing it with an invisible man. Kate Marston also added a solemnity to the play with her engaging performance of the intriguing ‘The Bulletproof Wonder’ who is gifted with immortality. The remainder of the cast were equally enjoyable as the other noticeably-distinct characters crafted by Keren. Despite the ability of the cast, the play’s flitting between drama and comedy inevitably led to a mistimed laugh by a member of the audience during one of Dubow’s dramatic revelations. She coped well as the rest of the audience reacted in subsequent laughter to this unfortunate incident. This release of dramatic tension was only perhaps a symptom of the audience’s desire to laugh again at a particularly poignant moment.

In a similar fashion to the two warring groups of heroes and villains, Keren’s play conveys both the light and dark sides of his subject matter. However, this mix of at-times spot-on comedy and unexpected dramatics leads to an unevenness in pace with the majority of laughs concentrated towards the opening half of the play with the character introductions rather than as the storyline progressed (with the one exception being the climactic action scene). Nevertheless, ‘Super’ made for a captivating production because of its unique concept supported by Eli Keren’s writing talent and a capable ensemble cast.

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