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James Wilson-Taylor: ‘Bat-Fan’ at Leicester Square Theatre, 25th – 26th March 2016

| Comedy, Culture, Music, Theatre | 23/03/2016

james wilson taylor_224_photo by steve ullathorne

By Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

James Wilson-Taylor doesn’t really hate Ben Affleck.  He just resents that Affleck was chosen over him to play Batman in the latest DC Comics offering, released on Friday.

Not that Wilson-Taylor was ever in the running for a role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but maybe he should have been.  Because in Bat-Fan – his one-man musical comedy being performed at Leicester Square Theatre on Friday and Saturday – Wilson-Taylor demonstrates his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Caped Crusader, and reminds us why his witty and creative performances attracted such strong reviews last summer.

The Joker

Bat-Fan was an undoubted success at last year’s Fringe and no wonder: who doesn’t love the Dark Knight?  But the production is more than just a homage to everyone’s favourite Gothamite: it’s a showcase of Wilson-Taylor’s wide-ranging acting, musical and comedy talents.

“It’s an hour of picking and choosing all the best bits of Batman to put together this ultimate mash-up, madcap movie,” he says.  “The central idea is that me – or my character really – thinks that only he can play Batman and get a Batman movie right.  And he’s horrified at the idea of Ben Affleck taking over the role.”

With this backdrop, the show becomes an extended audition, even though Wilson-Taylor admits: “As a five-foot-eight ginger man, I’m not exactly the most qualified for the role.”  Thankfully, our hero has something up his sleeve that Affleck – and each of his predecessors – lacks: a masters’ degree in musical theatre.  “Because that’s my superpower, there are loads of songs throughout the show which are really fun.”

If this all sounds very ambitious, that’s because it is.  But the jokes, sketches and music are delivered with a wit and creativity that tends to take the crowd with him.  For proof, have a look at YouTube clips of his opening number and Pick Me To Be In Batman.  “It’s just big and silly,” he says.  “I like to think that if you’re a Batman fan, you’ll have a good laugh.  But even if you’re not, there’s still going to be lots of silly songs to enjoy.”

Bat-Fan Forever?blank1

His two-night run in London is timed to coincide with the release of Batman v Superman on Friday.  Despite scepticism over Affleck’s suitability to pick up the baton from Christian Bale, Wilson-Taylor says he’ll watch the film. “I play it up obviously, but I’m a genuine fan,” he says.  “It’s hard not to get excited.”

The question is when he’ll find time to watch it: currently he’s unsure.  If before Saturday night, won’t this lead to frantic reworking if Affleck turns out to be any good?  “I think I’d have to do a slight rewrite,” he says.  “But at the same time, it’s almost funnier if he’s universally beloved and I’m the only person slagging him off!”

One thing’s certain: although Wilson-Taylor’s starting to turn to new projects, this isn’t the end of Bat-Fan.  He will perform the show at various festivals in the summer and plans further tour dates, including some in Edinburgh as the Fringe coincides with the release of the Batman villains movie, Suicide Squad.

The Future’s Bright

If his focus on the Batman franchise – and childhood photo clad in a homemade Batsuit – makes Wilson-Taylor seem obsessive, looks are deceptive.  He’s just identified a well-loved topic on which to base an hour of excellent entertainment.  This is a route he’s gone down before.  Wilson-Taylor went to drama school set on becoming a serious actor, before writing I Need A Doctor: The Whosical.  He performed the show at Edinburgh in 2014 with Jessica Spray, struck a chord with critics and hasn’t looked back.

Although he wouldn’t rule out comedy acting in the future, writing and performing gives him the most satisfaction.  “The fact that you have control over everything and it’s just entirely something you’ve made … well, you can’t really beat that.”

Wilson-Taylor’s talents have seen him recently reach the semi-finals of the Musical Comedy Awardswhere he’s experimented with new material and begun to write a new show “about a broader spectrum of pop culture.”  The current working title is Ginger is the New Black.

“The idea would be a big mix of loads of different musical comedy, but the backbone would be the history of the redhead.  I’ve been reading up on it and there’s going to be some mad stuff in there.”  He hopes to finish it in time for this year’s Fringe, and he’s enjoying writing and performing new music again.  “At the minute, I’m playing a stereotypical Ed Sheeran song that’s being going down well in the clubs.”

In the meantime, his focus is on Affleck, the pretender to his throne.

What’s On London wishes James Wilson-Taylor every success with his show, ‘Bat-Fan’ at Leicester Square Theatre on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th March 2016.  Tickets for both shows are available here.  For more information, follow James on Twitter @mrjaytee.

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