Coming of age dramas and tales of sexual awakening can be dour; as if the author feels compelled to emphasise the gravity of the situation. The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley, the latest solo show by writer, director and actor Chris Goode, on the other hand is told with humour and bags of charm.
The central character is a boy named Shirley - and that is the least of his problems. His emotional growth inhibited by the death of his brother Shirley, finds himself unable to act on his growing attraction to the captain of the school cross-country team.
This changes when Wound Man moves into the neighbourhood. Based upon a medical engraving from the 1600s illustrating the injuries that can be sustained on the battlefield he is studded with deadly weapons. Unlike Shirley - and the audience - his scars are external and his pain physical, as Wound Man is a superhero.
We can tell because he wears a snazzy silver thong - claiming to need the sazz. His powers are vague but seem to be empathic allowing him to ease the suffering of others. One of the funniest sequences involves Wound Man trying to explain the role and powers of the superhero in management terms - ' a freelance social interventionist' or ' it's more about empowering others'. Wound Man needs a sidekick which offers Shirley a chance to grow emotionally but also exposes the superhero to the type of prejudice that can defeat even acomic strip figure.
Goode interprets Shirley with a wide-eyed sense of wonder. This covers any gaps in logic and shamelessly directs the emotions of the audience. Vocally Goode gives Wound Man a clipped, almost military, voice that works well.
Although this is a one-man show it has the feel of a full-blown theatrical production. The set, designed by Janet Bird, gives us an attic bedroom decorated in a style too young for a teen but in which the occupant has begun to exert a degree of individuality by adding posters and other designs.
An imaginative and colourful animated sequence by Adam Smith allows us to share Shirley's dreams of flying. Even the soundtrack avoids cliche giving us songs by the likes of Kate Rusby instead of the more obvious choices that have been done to death.
The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley tells a familiar tale in a refreshing and imaginative way to leave us amused and moved.
- Dave Cunningham