Writer: Alistair McDowall
Director: Clive Judd
Reviewer: Harry Stern
Three brightly coloured boxes and two screens displaying the illustrations of Rebecca Glover, a subtle sound design by Martin Hodgson and very simple lighting by Drummond Orr are all that is needed to support the skillfully understated, yet utterly compelling performance by Mark Weinman. In masterpiece of writing economy Alistair McDowall offers all the finely honed material he needs to draw his audience into contemplation of the battle to make sense of a contemporary world. It’s a world peopled by ordinary folk living extraordinary lives or, just maybe, extraordinary people living very ordinary lives.
Mark is an inhibited, taciturn man. The sort of chap you can pass on the street any day of the week and to whom you give no second thought. He works in B+Q and lives alone in a sparsely furnished flat. His escape is to inhabit a fantasy world in which he becomes the eponymous superhero. His real life develops along a predictable path of meeting a girl, her falling pregnant, marriage and the birth of a baby daughter. When just living becomes too much of a challenge he drifts into a world where men wear too-tight pants outside their tights and fly around the world doing great deeds. It is his salvation and the counterbalance that allows him to retain equilibrium through the most trying of circumstances. And those circumstances are indeed grave, worsening from dealing with trying customers to the worst thing that can ever happen to a parent.
It is a marvellously comic script that plunges in a trice into genuine tragedy. Weinman is as accomplished a performer in a one-person show that it has been my privilege to have watched. There is a touch of the languidly dead-pan Jack Dee about him. He plays himself, complete with cape, as well as his wife, his customer, his boss and, utterly truthfully and endearingly, his daughter. It is not a showy, theatrical performance. It is subtle and truthful and, ultimately, heartbreaking. Every attribute is recognisable no matter the age, gender or situation of the character he is playing. His conversations between characters are not so much a man talking to himself but real people talking to each other. The performance has received justified plaudits and you would need to go far to find one to emulate it.
Even his alter ego is recognisably his and not a completely different creation. Mark’s Captain Amazing is, in reality anything but amazing. He is an ordinary bloke who eats, sleeps, bleeds and gets angry. But he helps him survive. As Mark himself says “I don’t know what I’d do without this.”
Runs until 4th May