Ushered into Bristol Old Vic’s cosy Basement, we perched on the high stools, and looked around at the small set of an armchair surrounded by ‘80s paraphernalia, and enjoyed the ‘80s pop songs playing. Automatically, I had a hopeful feeling about this.
The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley is a one-man production, both narrated and performed by writer Chris Goode, who has been performing various incarnations of this show since 2009. He’s instantly likeable, and blessed with the perfect voice for narration: already, this feels good.
Shirley is a teenage boy with a girl's name. Nothing makes much sense to him, and his heart belongs to a male classmate, Subway, who barely knows he exists. Wound Man is an unconventional superhero, sprung from the pages of a medieval medical textbook, with an alarming assortment of weapons sticking out of his body. Wound Man has just moved into a house on Shirley's street – and he has a vacancy for a sidekick.
And so begins this fantastical adventure as Shirley, who has more than his fair share of woes, starts to peer out of his shell and look at people to see more than just what is on the surface.
Chris Goode is a talented and likeable performer. He instantly has the audience in the palm of his hand and, by the time we reach Shirley and Wound Man’s impassioned stand-off, the atmosphere in the Basement was gripped with expectation… and I’m not ashamed to say I had a few tears pricking at my eyes. But that’s not to say this is a schmaltzy production. Chris Goode perfectly balances emotion and comedy, meaning that even while the audience is invested in Shirley and his crisis, we still come away lifted.
The inclusion of Wound Man as an unlikely saviour is inspired, and the many facets of his story leave the audience wondering if he even existed, was he simply a figment of Shirley’s teenage imagination, or was there something more sinister at play? All of these are questions we take away with us.
The simple set by James Lewis, and the inclusion of a full musical soundtrack of re-workings of ‘80s pop favourites, really help to reinforce the magic of The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley. And it’s a relief that the full listings are included in the screenplay (I was scratching my head trying to remember what one of two of the songs were!).
Chris Goode is a huge talent and one to keep an eye on. This was an exhilarating show that in many ways reminded me of the fuzzy charm of Gregory’s Girl, and I will certainly be booking my place to see what Chris does next.