Super Human Heroes from theatre group The Letter J (in association with Paisley Arts Centre) has a simple message: We all need to do our little bit to help make the world a better place, even if that's just by using less plastic or just being kinder to other people. We have a tendency to put our trust in heroes to save us, but the show highlights that this just isn’t good enough.
The show is full of light, shadow and movement.
Projected onto a central screen, a succession of made-up newspaper front pages underscore the state of the world; "It Just Got Worse" is arguably the most amusingly grim headline among them, if only because it's true! In any case, in response, three ordinary flatmates somehow manage to reinvent themselves as costumed superheroes: brilliant Captain Sunshine (Jon Bishop), question-asking Super Curious (Judith Williams) and the fast and furious Courageous Kid (Ruth Janssen). "The world needs saving, and this is what we’ll do!" they announce, before setting out to right wrongs and save lives. ....Until they find themselves out of their depth and it all starts to get too much.
Superheroes are nowadays a pretty-mainstream concept, the stuff of blockbuster movies, but there's a sense here that Bishop, Williams and Janssen are assuming an audience whose knowledge of superheroes is somewhat less than the listed age-range might suggest. Yes, this results in some beautifully tender songs, performed by Bishop on guitar, where he ironically suggests "I'm a tough guy/Real tough". However, his assertion that "Superheroes with feelings/Can't save the day" is although arguably a suitably child-friendly comment on the dangers of toxic masculinity, but ignores the emotional complexity of an increasingly sophisticated superhero genre.
Bishop sings, performs and provides the illustrations, Williams gives us some great comedy moments, while Janssen offers emotional collapse expressed through energetic choreography. The show is full of light, shadow and movement but, at least on the night of this review (with a largely adult audience), it left me emotionally untouched—and so not sufficiently distracted from the somewhat unsubtle arrival of the show’s "message" that we should all try to be Super Human Heroes.