In his new, skilfully told solo show at Bristol Old Vic, Tristan Sturrock performs the story of his own brush with death; a tumble from a wall in 2004 that left him with a broken neck. Sturrock and director Katy Carmichael do well to steer clear from staging the tale as a saccharine tearjerker, and yet the self-conscious theatricality of the piece becomes as much a source of frustration as it does of joy.

Before catching any glimpse of an actor, the production’s stripped-back design leaves no doubt that the following hour will draw heavy influence from the professional world which Sturrock inhabits – a rack of costumes, bulb-ringed dressing table mirror and a set of velvet drapes on wheels feature heavily. This in itself is no issue, though the style does have the potential to catch in one’s throat. Opening the piece with Sturrock, as assured showman, demonstrating his authorial power to dim and raise the lights to the dutiful ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of the audience – for example – may ingratiate him as a performer, but also feels a little too smug and slick for a story that is really made of rawer stuff: difficulty, rehabilitation and grit.

It is, noticeably, when injections of hyper-theatricality correspond with moments that explore Sturrock’s predicament rather than simply recount it that some stunningly memorable coups de theatre occur. A dream sequence boasting a mesmerising feat of mirror work, a bravura portrayal of a self-aggrandising luvvie ‘giving his surgeon’ and a consistently exciting use of simple props to suggest complex ideas; here are the wholly worthwhile justifications for what is often a brazen rejection of naturalistic storytelling methods.

Dramatic style aside, this is an explicitly human story which provides Sturrock with plenty of opportunities to showcase his remarkable versatility as an actor. Playing himself at various stages in his life, as well as his girlfriend and his surgeon, a neighbour and an ambulance-man; as the single spot dims for a final time, you too will be hugely grateful to all the staff at Derriford Spinal Unit, Plymouth– the city where, perhaps not coincidentally, Mayday Mayday concludes its national tour later this year. For even with the occasional stylistic misstep, there is a fertile energy at the heart of Sturrock’s performance, and of his story, which goes some way to convincing that with the right mix of verve and gumption, anything might be possible.

Mayday Mayday is at Bristol Old Vic until February 4 before continuing on tour.