I have a friend in his early twenties who is always complaining that he does not have a girlfriend. His libido is now reportedly like a tumour, malign and growing and gradually destroying him. He is also, coincidentally, an enormous fan of superheroes, both as they are served up in the collectable, comic book format and in these Hollywood CGI spectaculars. I typically condemn him for this because, just as understimulated young men in the 1930s were attracted to fascism, it seems that superhero enthrallment is today the same impulse, disguised in a gaudy costume.
It is distinctly sinister, this worship of a fantastic individual’s unlimited power. In the superhero’s world, social institutions are always ineffective; the police are as powerless as insects, whilst elected politicians are distant or unscrupulous. New York is never saved from annihilation by a really good committee. And my superhero-loving friend is characteristically detached from politics in real life. His own politics, upon inspection, exclusively comprises the conviction that the Twin Towers were destroyed by a conspiracy which had involved somewhere at the back of it all – yes, you’ve guessed it! – Jewish interests.
So superhero worship is, for me, a subject which is overdue some meaningful scrutiny. Yet Kenny Boyle’s “Hero Worship,” which is currently quartered at C on Chambers Street, does not really probe about under the latex. Boyle plays a young saddo and supermarket employee who is obsessed, to the inevitably encyclopaedic extent, with superheroes. His parents have died; he gets bullied and beaten up in the park by some random “thugs” who also kick his dog. But our non-hero does not mature and develop as a character by deciding to ditch the comics and unleash himself upon the real world. Instead, the world accommodates itself, rather unrealistically, to his own needs. He meets a girl who is unexpectedly sympathetic and resolves to take a chance on him, tying his story up with an effort-free, rom-com finish.
This play is rather naughtily advertised in the official Fringe guide as “new writing,” which had placed it on a priority footing for Tychy. “Hero Worship” has been actually in existence since 2014. Boyle is a talented and energetic performer, and the scenes in which he is fooling around as the dog, and depicting the aftermath of the mother’s death, give this play a substance which it could do with a lot more of. “Hero Worship” is often motivational in a rather trite way. The small audience are roped in to play stiff, frivolous games which create the ambiance of a workplace team-bonding session. The message appears to be that we are all heroes deep down, but this is obviously untrue: sometimes we need to change, and painfully.
Anonymous men rushing about doing good deeds – how preposterous! What’s this though? There’s a signal in the sky – a new student play at the Surgeons’ Hall which nobody has reviewed yet. Quick – I affix my visor and slip into my plastic tights. Butler dude, rev up the Tychymobile!