Pros: Gives a voice to Lois beyond the “save me Superman!” and considers the real-life dilemmas Clark Kent would face minus the cape.
Cons: The noise from the pub downstairs.
Superman had no shortage of supervillain enemies. There’s the almost invulnerable Darkseid, the unpronounceable Mr. Mxyztptlk, and the Machiavellian Lex Luthor. I’m not big on DC Comics and the last Superman film I saw had Christopher Reeve in it, but I think that we would all agree his heroic record is quite impressive. What nothing has prepared our caped hero for, however, is how to survive normal life.
In Superman & Me we witness the unexpected situation of Lois (Tracey Ann Wood) and Clark (Stephen Oswald) going through professional counselling to save their marriage. Now a middle-aged couple with grown-up kids struggling to recreate the passion of their initial encounters, this one-act play follows the virtual story of what happened to Lois and Clark after the closing credits rolled in the cinema.
Lois is finding it difficult to cope with Clark’s ‘Superman’ persona and works hard to remind him that he is just “a normal, everyday guy”. Sensitive and kind, Clark also struggles to keep up with the alpha-male superhero role he is expected to fill by his peers and society at large. Independent and brave Lois resents having missed out on the best years of her youth, instead incarnating what was seen by others as the perfect female role – of course, always in relation to a man (that is, Clark).
While he was travelling around the world covering wars as a foreign correspondent and saving damsels in distress, Lois had to stay at home looking after the kids, making sure that everything was taken care of for when he returned from his heroic and manly duties. Her ambitions and freedom evaporated into thin air. Both characters suffer the pressures exerted on them by a neurotic society which imposes Barbie dolls on girls and Action Men on boys. Clark suffers from mental health issues. Lois looks for freedom somewhere else.
While the words ‘anti-romantic comedy’ in the play’s description might be a turn-off for some of us, Superman & Me presents a thoughtful and poignant snapshot of a marriage constrained by oppressive gender roles imposed by a capitalist society wherein women are prevented from fighting for their rights and men are encouraged to suppress women. One sentence I particularly liked from the play is when Lois, replying to Clark’s intentions of always being there to save her in dangerous situations, says “I’m a feminist; the last thing I want is to be safe”. Food for thought, gentlemen.
Suzette Coon attempts to create credible characters, all too human and easy to empathise with, and in this she succeeds with flying colours. Despite the short length of the play (well under an hour) she has devised a fairly accurate portrayal, devoid of romanticism or stereotypes, of the 21st century marriage crisis. Lydia Parker’s direction is fluid and makes the best of a stage where all there is to see are two chairs and two talented actors.
For those of you who have been in the cosy Canal Café Theatre you will know that it’s above the Bridge House pub – great for pints before and after the play. Not so great for the noise coming from the kitchen, which was quite disruptive during the show. However, I am told that the cooks have been asked to keep their overexcited recipe exchange down in the future.
Who could have predicted that Superman’s kryptonite was his marriage?
Author: Suzette Coon
Director: Lydia Parker
Producer: Little Pieces of Gold and The Canal Café Theatre
Booking Until: 14 March 2018
Box Office: 020 7289 6054
Booking Link: https://canalcafetheatre.com