The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley

Sat 20th – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Madeleine Morley

at 10:12 on 22nd Aug 2011

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Emotionally isolated fourteen-year old Shirley - "the weirdest kid in school" - is burdened by the weight of having a girl's name, his unrequited love for the schools cross-country team captain, and a deep, unacknowledged grief that he keeps hidden in a suitcase underneath his bed. We've all known someone like that, if not been someone like that. Wound Man moves into his suburban neighborhood, a superhero covered from head to toe with knives based on a fifteenth-century illustration from a guide to surgery, a "Billy Murray crossed with a Swiss Army knife", and Shirley's life takes quite a turn as he becomes the quirky heroes sidekick. Wound Man's special powers don't prevent disaster but rather make people braver, because he looks like how people feel inside when they're emotionally or physically hurt. Wound Man's power is just the same as a story-tellers or an artists, the healing power to make you realize you're not alone, that others feel pain too, to suggest solutions. It's an exquisitely surreal story, like a classic fairy tale you feel you know already. Wound Man himself resembles something Tim Burton might have dreamt up as a comic book illustrator, and there is a lovely sense of uninhibited truthfulness and poignancy that captures the heartache of adolescence, beautifully reminiscent of the deliciously strange short stories written by film director Miranda July.

This sparkling story is written and told by the sweet, enigmatic and unguarded Chris Goode, with a tender touch of the childlike. He tells it with such exuberance that you forget you're listening to a fairy tale and can actually see the animal stampedes and the incredible, clanking Wound Man right in front of your eyes. You can almost smell the heady fumes from the Radiohead-themed restaurant called 'OK Potato' where Wound Man and Shirley like to hang out. It's a feeling I haven't experienced since having bedtime stories read to me as a four year old and drifting off with the image of Willy Wonka's great elevator sending great shards of glass shattering through the sky. Goode is a hypnotic storyteller, so expressively vivid with words and warped whimsy there is no need for a cast to bring it all to life. He's a storyteller for grown-ups, leaving it up to you and your imagination to bring his words alive and fill in the action in your own personal way. It's a very effective technique, as you feel that you are entering the story yourself. You can see and hear the clackety-clack of Wound Man when you look at the little illustration placed by the side of the chair, but of course as Goode warns, you mustn't touch him. It is as if Chris Goode is Wound Man, using words as the source of his super power.

I leave the venue feeling oddly cozy, like it really is time to go to sleep, and need to drink some strong coffee in order to write this review. I feel weirdly comforted by the image of exposed, deviant but generous Wound Man, like somehow through his words I too feel braver, like the characters in the story. After two shows a day, so much comedy it isn't funny, and two reviews a day, living on two hours sleep and a tub of instant coffee, I need Wound Man and Shirley to come and save me. If you like bewitching story-telling, tales that mix the suburban and surreal, and if you like the thought of a more good natured Mighty Boosh, then this show will be sure to pierce your heart.

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Rowan Evans

at 11:30 on 22nd Aug 2011

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I’m sure many of us start to feel it even less than a week in: my Fringe is starting to get a little frantic. The domestic nest Chris Goode has constructed in the Baby Grand portakabin is a haven. If you haven’t already encountered Goode’s work, this show presents one facet of his vast creative output. Even at its most sentimental, the writing of ‘Wound Man and Shirley’ is full of colour, lyric clarity and comic slight of hand.

Goode’s persistent but gentle storytelling is so vivid that I forget early on this is a one man show. Adopting voices, and reorienting himself on stage - a central armchair, or an end seat with the audience - he uses a simple manipulation of sound and space to create dramatic separation. A period New Wave soundtrack evolves in perfect sync with the natural script; character sketches flicker with truth; small observations recur like items stored and forgotten in a pocket. For me, with my early teen years both a memory and an odd portrait of someone else entirely, the observation is spot on. Sown with familiar detritus, Shirley’s room is ‘a 3D blueprint, someone inventing a way to live’.

What’s easy to overlook is the gravity of some the issues Goode is handling. The repercussions of loss are translated into a schoolboy’s routine morning rituals, while the self-doubt of boyhood and taboos surrounding homosexuality aren’t forced, simply there. Yet this is a play for anyone who has experienced change and the agony of any Unsaid: surely all of us? ‘Wound Man and Shirley’ is a warming show from a writer and performer of acute mind and sublime ability.

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