[author-post-rating] (5/5 stars) It isn’t easy to juggle the demands of being a superhero with marriage, fatherhood and a job at B&Q. Bruntwood prize-winning writer Alistair McDowall excels in this intelligent and warmly funny portrait of a lonely man, whose life is made sense of by fatherhood and dogged by his alter-ego, Captain Amazing. With his heat ray vision and his bright red cape, Amazing’s the kind of superhero that could have been created by a child – or for one, in this case Mark’s little girl, Emily. She sees her father as a super-powered protector of justice, though she knows he isn’t really; it’s just their game.
Captain Amazing could well be the best one-man show at this year’s Fringe, a perfect union of acting, writing and directing. Mark Weinman is genuinely remarkable as the quiet, passive everyman at the heart of it, always understated and note-perfect. We believe every moment of Mark’s journey, as we see him meet a girl, go on dates her, eventually bring her back to his sparse, rather sad apartment. And when Weinman gives her a voice, it’s no pale imitation, no joke, no Python-esque woman; just another person who happens to be female, played totally straight.
He brings every character to life with an ease that belies the difficulty of solo performance, using only his voice and physicality to separate and define the multitude of characters, from both Mark’s life and Captain Amazing’s. One day a pint with Batman, the next a chat with his manager; Weiman’s range is superb.
The show is also cleverly designed, with comic book panels that look as if they have been drawn by a child helping to establish scenes and settings. Projected at the back of the stage, Rebecca Glover’s illustrations are evocative of childhood and hugely effective in assisting Weinman to make locations clear within seconds of the scene changing. With things kept clear and free of confusion, Weinman and his director, Clive Judd, are able to focus on drawing out the themes, complexities and humour of McDowall’s beautiful writing.
There’s little to be said about Weinman’s performance that isn’t just superlatives or about the show at large that doesn’t risk giving it away. Its charm is in its delicacy, as McDowall has things unfurl gently, with pace and timing as near to perfect as makes no never-mind. Between its hilarious sending up of the comic book superhero and its subtle, heart-wrenching portrayal of a father’s relationship with his young daughter, Captain Amazing should appeal to anyone who’s ever had a child or been one.
Captain Amazing finished its run at Northern Stage at St Stephens on 12 August.