Interview: Chris Goode (& me).

Written for Exeunt

Chris Goode has woken up later than planned and is still waiting for the morning to reveal to him what sort of day this will be “There’s a lot of renegotiation that has to happen…” he is explaining to me “so we’ll do that throughout our conversation, it will be an interesting extra dimension.”

I can’t imagine someone I would rather ‘renegotiate’ my day with. Chatting to Goode on the phone and letting him lead me into new places of thought, I realise this is not a dissimilar experience to watching him recount The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirleyat the BAC last week. When talking to Goode or watching him perform, something about his gentle, funny, self effacing demeanour disarms you until you find you are happily swimming in a sea of what often end up being complex questions.

Whilst this seems to be an intrinsic part of who Goode is personally, he believes that forWound Man and Shirley this style was particularly necessary. “I knew that I was going to be wanting to do something quite ticklish in terms of the story I tell, which if you were to apply it to two characters in a less magic realistic context would be a story that would alarm and disturb people…” In the character of Wound Man (“a character plainly not wholly of this world”) Goode was able to access a world of magical realism which softened the blow of a story that the Daily Mail would have had a field day with. “It helps people to get to a place where at the end of the show they are really rooting for essentially a relationship between a 14 year old boy and a 40 something year old man who just wears pants all day, you know there are a lot of gritty TV dramas that could be made out of that relationship.”

For Goode a large part of telling this story came from a need to encourage understanding that there may be different instances of the same category of event. As a teenager Goode had a close friendship with an older man of a similar sort to our two protagonists and he wanted to tackle the inherent demonization that people like his ‘villain’ the nosy Reg Parsley in his play instantly resort to “…there’s begun to be something really important for me about standing up for the possibility that that kind of relationship is not intrinsically harmful, obviously it’s a very vulnerable situation, it’s one where everyone’s right to be nervous but actually…I think there is a great deal of bravery on both sides of those relationships.”

It’s an incredible thing that in The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley, this thorny subject only really pricks your consciousness with Goode’s down-to-earth yet whimsical style guiding you past those knee jerk reactions. Goode is both really pleased and slightly bemused by the almost universal waves of warmth audiences have given to this relationship “I do sometimes want to go ‘you do realise what I’m saying right? ‘You do realise what you’re cheering for?!’ and that’s kind of great…”

I think back to why I was so whole heartedly prepared to jump into Goode’s world and I keep coming back to its incredible detail. Within an hour the lives of Wound Man and Shirley are revealed before us in marvellous blossoming colour. The ‘clankity-clunk’ that Wound Man makes as he walks down into the cul-de-sac, the description of PE teacher Mr Carpenter-Finch’s silly tracksuit ensembles, OK Potato (the café they hang out in) which is like a Radiohead-themed outpost of Spud-U-Like  or how Shirley transcends his surroundings when he watches the boy he is obsessed with, his fellow long distance runner, Subway Darling. For Goode the key to this was the ‘call back’. “I think part of the sense you have of it being quite a detailed and a filled in sort of world is that there are things you will hear about in one moment that I will go back to 20 minutes later and just touch in with again. There are these rhythms that come back, or lines or phrases that recur and I really like doing that.” It seems interesting that this is a trick that both storytellers and stand-ups can share, automatically creating an immense sense of satisfaction in an audience “…there’s something fun about doing that but also for me it’s a way of creating a universe because it creates a fictional place where the kind of patterns that we find exciting about our own universe, the correspondences and coincidences create a sense of realism within a framework that’s really all about making stuff up.”

It is a world and a story that Goode is at peace with. As a performer who usually encourages and plays with a large amount of uncertainty in his work, part of what he is enjoying is the craftedness involved within the piece “Whatever you’re doing on stage I think you kind of have to own it and I think I’ve too often lacked confidence to really own what I’m doing and that’s why it’s so nice now to do Wound Man because I trust it enough as a story that actually I really love telling. I really love having that connection with an audience and I don’t feel like a dick for doing it and that’s such a treat.” Goode feels a certainty within the story of Wound Man and Shirley which means he has regained his daylight life “I usually tend to have quite dread filled days” he laughs “that hasn’t happened here so I’ve got my days back, normally I would just expect to spend the days before a show biting my nails and scowling at things whilst eating crisps.”

Perhaps this is the loveliest thing about Goode. Like Wound Man he puts himself in painful positions for the benefit of others. A reluctant performer who places himself directly in front of audiences and then removed all safety nets (the original set for Wound Man was much more complex so he could hide behind it) Goode is giving us his all. Maybe that’s why audiences love him so much. Or maybe it’s because he says things like “I realised with some horror in Edinburgh that Wound Man is Prince Charles…he’s the royal personage who turns up in the aftermath of a disaster, stands there and says ‘Ah well how terrible for you all’ and everyone feels a bit better.”

The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley has two extra dates at BAC 29 & 30 December. For more details go here.

Chris Goode’s Hippo World Guest Book is at Stoke Newington International Airport on the 19th December 2011.

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