Saturday, June 06, 2009

Theatre Review: The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley

The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley
Written and Performed by Chris Goode

Contact Theatre, Manchester

Reviewed by Paul Kane

Without a doubt, this was the most beautiful and interesting play to be performed at the Queer Up North festival; already, perhaps, it should be regarded as a classic. Let’s go through a few reasons why it was overall so fine and copacetic.

First key point to make: it has an awful lot of charm. The set, Shirley’s bedroom, vividly evokes the mid to late ‘70s: Bowie’s Aladdin Sane poster on the wall and the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK poster too. (I’d query whether they have the correct Spider Man poster on the wall, mind: wasn’t that an Ultimate Spider Man poster I espied?) Adam Smith’s opening animation is involving and fun, elegant and expressive both. Then there is Chris Goode’s virtuoso performance.

Goode plays all the parts: the storyteller/narrator; Wound Man, a superhero whose special power is to contain, and therefore take away, others’ pain; Shirley, a teenage boy still mourning for his dead brother and struggling to come to terms with his sexuality; Reg Parsley, an ideal exemplar (or should that be an Exemplar Ideal?) of the Daily Mail’s target readership; and quite a few other characters too. Throughout, Goode is engaging and amiable, his humour often silly and outrageous.
The, it has to be said very English, charm of Goode’s piece allows him to get away with delivering a message that people may not want or like to hear: that a relationship between a teenage boy and an older man may be warm, affectionate, respectful and good for both. This is not an especially complex message, but it is maybe a transgressive one, in our paedophile-paranoid times. And that Goode should use the superhero/sidekick template to sweeten this truth will likely have old Doc. Wertham turning in his grave.

The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley is absolutely enchanting, a Pythonesque brew of Kes and Dennis Cooper, with perhaps just a smidgeon of Hellraiser too. It is the best piece of British Theatre since the Katie Mitchell and the NT’s Waves.

Paul Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. Hewelcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at



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