Wednesday 27 July 2016

Superman and me - Review

King's Head Theatre, London


Written by Suzette Coon
Directed by Eloise Lally

Tracey Ann Wood and Paul Giddings

Superman and me is a short, (if not so) sweet, two-handed snapshot of domestic dysfunctionality. Focusing on journalists Lois and Clark (geddit?) who met while working on the same newspaper, the half-hour long play, simply set in the chairs of their marriage-guidance counsellor's therapy room, flits in and out of the time zones of their ultimately unhappy twenty-something years together.

Suzette Coon's writing is a patchwork of barbed dialogue and reflective, sometime wistful monologues. Poignant, painful and occasionally perceptive, we witness her characters pick their way through the recognisable compromises of post-modern couples. Clark struggles with his conventionally macho ego being challenged by his ambitious and intellectual wife, whilst Lois sacrifices her stimulating career advancement on the altar of (mildly) resented motherhood. It ain't Pinter, but rather recognisable themes which Coon, for the most part, addresses avoiding cliché.

That the play dabbles fleetingly with the complexities and consequences of manic depression is a niggle. Mental health issues need to be talked about for sure - but making someone's breakdown the focus of a self described "anti romantic comedy" hints at a flippant treatment of the illness, which one suspects could not be further from Coon's intentions. A little more work is needed, 

Unquestionably written from the female perspective, Tracey Ann Wood (last reviewed here in Big Brother Blitzkrieg) remains outstanding, with every word capturing both the poise and nuance of her frustrations. Paul Giddings’ Clark however is a shallower creation, confined to playing (albeit very well) little more than a fatally stymied geek. One wishes that the text might have offered him an opportunity to explore a broader range of emotions.

But credit to Coon, for her innovative writing is punchy and emphatic and she's maintained a ruthless eye on the clock too. Superman and me deserves its inclusion in The King's Head's admirable Festival 46 and is well worth watching.

Performed again on 28th July

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