Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: The Adventures of Wound-Man and Shirley, New Wolsey, Ipswich

Review: The Adventures of Wound-Man and Shirley, New Wolsey, Ipswich

Published on Culture Wars, 01.07.2009

Wound-Man is one superhero unlikely to be given the Hollywood blockbuster treatment. He can no more provide the tick-tock moment of over-dramatic salvation than he can muster the all-American aesthetics of jaw, teeth and hair-gel. In fact, Wound-Man looks like a human Swiss-Army knife; his misaligned features are offset by an arsenal of weapons protruding from his flesh. His powers are not preventative, but accidentally empathetic. He turns up in the wake of tragedy to ease the pain suffered simply by looking as others feel. When asked where it hurts, a child involved in a car accident points across the street at him: “Over there.”

However, this is not Wound-Man’s story, but Shirley Godanken’s. It is the teenager – awkward in name, sexuality and society – that overcomes the struggles of adolescence and moves towards comfortable self-acceptance. Thanks to his marred mentor, he realises that we can’t all be like Subway Darling, the cross-country captain with whom Shirley is in love, but we still can keep on putting one foot in front of the other for as long as it takes. We can’t all change the world, but that’s not to say there isn’t a place in it for each of us.

As writer and performer Chris Goode sticks to simple story-telling, proving an affable guide with, more crucially, a delectable turn of phrase. With well-drawn, quirky characters, all neatly garnished with considered vocalisation, Goode is able to maintain a touching, fragile quality alongside a gentle cynicism. Even if, occasionally, his wry tendencies get carried away, Goode has a keen eye for the mundane flotsam within the fantastical: Wound-man’s wardrobe of identical silver thongs, for example, or his preferred job-title of “freelance social interventionist.”

Storytelling must, of course, justify its presentation on the stage instead of the page and this Goode achieves beautifully. Stepping into Janet Bird’s set, a cartoon bedroom cluttered with remnants of childhood, Goode himself becomes an three-dimensional outsider perusing a flat-pack world. Bird’s design is more Beano than Marvel and, in tandem with Adam Smith’s scratchy animations, directs our imagination carefully around Goode’s tale without shackling it to singularity.

With a perfectly pitched soundtrack – ever-present but never intrusive – permitting atmosphere, The Adventure’s of Wound-Man and Shirley proves itself a robust piece, carefully considered to achieve just the right effect without itself becoming conspicuous.

What Goode has achieved is a story with so much to say that you needn’t notice quite how spectacularly well he’s saying it. With such gentle efficiency, heartfelt charm and modest deference, Goode could have all the makings of a freelance social interventionist himself.

Photograph: Chris Goode

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