Captain Amazing

Alistair McDowell, with illustrations by Rebecca Glover

Live Theatre, Newcastle

From 09 April 2013 to 13 April 2013

Review by Peter Lathan

It is not usual, in a review, to credit an illustrator alongside the playwright but, in the case of Captain Amazing, it seems very appropriate because Rebecca Glover’s illustrations, projected onto a screen above the stage, are an integral part of the story, not merely setting the scenes but adding an additional layer to an already multi-layered piece.

Actor Mark Weinman is our central character, also called Mark—which itself is appropriate because Weinman was an essential part of the play’s development process.

At the beginning Mark is an ordinary kind of guy who has a few self-confidence issues which gives him a certain amount of trouble relating to other people, particularly women. However we see him meet a girl and we watch as their relationship develops. We see the birth of their child, a daughter, and her growing up.

There are, in fact, eleven characters in the play and Weinman plays them all (including his daughter), changing voice and body language continually, often sentence after sentence. This could be confusing, in spite of the actor’s skill, except for the projected illustrations which make it clear just what the situation and the characters are.

The style of the illustrations is comic-book and in them Mark is always Captain Amazing, superhero. After all, to his daughter—as perhaps all dads are to their children—that’s what he is, a superhero. And in the pictures and on the stage he wears a red cape to prove it!

It sounds silly, and yet it makes perfect sense, for everything that happens is filtered for us through the mind of this desperately sad man whose only real success and joy in life comes from his daughter.

It’s very cleverly constructed, presenting us with a complex and multi-layered picture of the life of one man, making us laugh one minute and evoking pathos the next, and Weinman’s performance is exemplary. He holds the stage for an hour and there’s never a let-up in intensity.

I understand that the production (which, incidentally, was developed at Live) is going to Edinburgh this year. That’s good, for it certainly deserves a much longer life.