It’s practically a rite of childhood: draping a colourful blanket or towel across one’s shoulders and racing about the room shouting, “I’m flying, I’m flying!” Yes, most of us have played superhero at one point or another, but in every youth’s life comes the time to put away the masks and capes (or my mother’s red satin bustier – but I digress).
But what about the daring few whose lust for thrills drive them out on the streets, night after night, in the hopes of fighting crime and protecting the innocent? Scott Cook has been an avid collector of comic books his entire life. He loved the vivid tales of adventure and mayhem, a passion that continued long past adolescence and inspired the young man to don a costume and mask, prowling the night in search of wrongdoing.
Taking the nom-de-guerre Justice and aided by a faithful childhood friend, Cook begins to make a dent in the local criminal activity. The community cops are grudgingly appreciative of his aid, and word starts to spread of a masked vigilante finally getting tough on crime.
These twilight ventures go largely unnoticed by the hero’s wife and family, until a fateful night when Justice’s brave mission is cut short by a ruthless killer. Now it’s up to Cook’s surviving colleagues and intimates to piece together the events leading up to his death in Real Life Superhero, a new play by Steven Jackson.
“Anyone who’s ever loved a comic book has thought about doing something like this,” says Jackson, who based his play on several real-life costumed vigilantes. “I saw a video on YouTube a few years ago about this man who decided to do this at night. He had a normal job during the day, and he videoed everything, including the moment his mother and girlfriend figured out what was going on.
“It just seemed so happy-go-lucky to me. I watched it and thought, ‘Well, this is dandy that everybody’s happy and talking on a couch about it, but what if things didn’t turn out so well?’”
Jackson approaches Superhero in classic sleuth fashion, having one character – a writer – interview the others about their experiences with Cook, both as a hero and as a man. Interspersed are scenes of Justice in action, leading up to his final moments as a hero. The writer is skeptical but curious: was this guy just crazy, or was he, in fact, a real-life superhero?
“There are moments where the characters go into the story and find this moment of truth about where they all connect to Scott,” Jackson says. “What’s fascinating is that you’re getting a perspective on him and also a perspective on what it means to actually do this sort of thing.
“You start to see where it was something kind of crazy, but something that also had a purpose. We learn who Scott was and what it actually means to be a superhero.”
Real Life Superhero
Wed, Aug 22-Sun, Aug 26
Winchester St Theatre
80 Winchester St