Review: The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley

‘Is it a bird scarer? Is it a plane crash?’ the people cry!

‘No,’ he replies, ‘It’s only me; it’s Wound Man.’

This one man adventure story for grown-up kids is utterly brilliant. A one-woman standing ovation for the bow (although admittedly, she was probably the performer’s mother) seemed to mark the spirits of all of us by the end of this theatrical journey: uplifted.

The play tells the story of how a fourteen-year-old boy discovers the superhero, Wound Man, is living on his road. Based on the 15th Century surgical illustration of what is essentially a man in a thong with multiple swords sticking out of his body, Wound Man seems an unusual kind of superhero. But as Shirley soon discovers, he really is one of a kind.

After a casual baked potato at ‘Ok, Potato’ – ‘basically Spudulike, but built around Radio Head’ – this superhero and his sidekick head off to the aftermath of tragedies in order for people to ogle and point and loudly claim, ‘You look how I feel!’

As well as a brilliantly crafted, hugely funny piece of story-telling, ‘The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley’ is extremely heartening. This is a story that speaks to all of us, and causes us to look back and remember our fourteen-year-old selves, and say, ‘Yeah, I was a bit like that.’

The idea of a superhero who can ‘touch people, without really touching them’, plays on all sorts of ideas in the non-theatrical world. The play seems to bear the message – albeit, one message among many – that while we cannot change the world, we can change the way people view their situations, just by being there. Similarly, Shirley – with all his gay-fourteen-year-old-loneliness – relates to Wound Man’s inability to hold. To Shirley, Wound Man’s message is invaluable; the idea that we can in fact hold people, despite being a walking flail.

I have reservations about one-people shows, particularly if they are a narrative. When I first sat in my seat and saw the armchair centre-stage I mildly panicked that this was going to be nothing short of a bedtime story. As important as I believe the spoken word to be, what never works is when a performer has simply not been bothered to write the thing down but has instead thought, ‘I know! Let’s bung an armchair in a theatre!’

Chris Goode blew these reservations away. No doubt also brought alive by Wendy Hubbard’s purposeful directing and the very enjoyable musical interludes to tap your feet along to, Chris Goode’s magical storytelling skills reassured me that this was in fact a ‘play’, and not a ‘theatrical book’.

A play to make you laugh, make you cry, and make you wish that superheroes were real. Go and see it in a theatre near you – now!

8/10

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