“We need heroes,” the superhero Anachronism tells us, “anything that isn’t…real life.”
Our hero for the next hour, Anachronism is standing centre-stage with his back to the audience. His secret identity is Kenny Boyle, writer and star of the one-man show, Hero Worship.
As the show starts it becomes clear that Boyle is an accomplished storyteller. After some deliberately hammy and hilarious recounting of a Week in the Diary of a Superhero, he suddenly addresses us directly, smashing through the fourth wall like The Hulk through MDF. He apologises for his lack of a set and explains that he blew the budget on comic books. It’s endearing, designed to win his audience over, and it works. There is no more ham; this is just a guy telling a story.
Boyle sets the scene: a typical city rooftop, beloved of so many superheroes, which we are to revisit several times during the next hour. Sometimes we’ll be there with a smile on our faces, others swallowing down a lump in our throats. His storytelling is as captivating as his comedy is funny, the whole room is there with him, having been transported from the cinema room in the CCA to that rooftop, to a park, to a hospital.
He draws us in with heartfelt recounting of Anachronism’s origins, straight theatre and standup comedy, and a barrage of comic book references. From being refused entry to several superhero groups for reasons both hilarious and obvious – he didn’t join the Autobots because he’s rubbish at Hide & Seek – to his “Dear Peter Parker…” correspondence it is an emotional whirlwind. As a comic geek I choked up a little – we did all hear that snap.
So it is particularly poignant in the moments when the comic book references stop. Boyle asks us to consider the everyday, the impact we have upon others. We reflect on the loss of loved ones, our own insecurities and “secret identities”, he touches briefly – very briefly – and subtly upon the onset of depression and, despite that brevity, manages to accurately convey that feeling of uselessness, the difficulty of living with someone who has it, wanting to take it from them but knowing you can’t and can only be there.
He brings difficult, painful subject matter to the forefront of our consideration as easily as he makes us laugh with jokes about superhero sound effects and imaginary dog pee.
Boyle’s point is, ultimately, that by the simplest acts of human kindness we can all be heroes to someone. We don’t need teleportation or adamantium claws or to move faster than lightning. We just need to love and be loved, to support and be supported.
Hero Worship is a flawless, beautiful hour of geekery with gravitas, and should be required viewing for any adult comic fan.
For more information, visit the Hero Worship site