PRESENTER The modern world is a dangerous place. Enemies crowd in upon us from every angle and we are individually defenceless against them, so we entrust our safety to those of superior powers. America has given the world ‘The Avengers’ and here, in the UK, we have Mr. Alfred Wonderman, the world’s first Welfare State Superhero, who has today – in our greatest hour of need – stunned the country by announcing his retirement from all… superdoings… and we are very fortunate to have him here in the studio with us today to discuss his reasons.
(THE CAMERA FOCUSES ON THE BACK OF A SWIVEL CHAIR WHICH TURNS DRAMATICALLY TOWARDS IT. IN IT SITS WONDERMAN. THE CHAIR DOES NOT STOP, BUT SPINS ALL THE WAY AROUND, UNTIL IT STOPS ONCE AGAIN FACING AWAY FROM THE CAMERA. AFTER A PAUSE THE PRESENTER STANDS AND TURNS THE CHAIR AROUND. WONDERMAN LOOKS AROUND HIM, CONFUSED, BEFORE SHIELDING HIS EYES WITH HIS HAND AND STARING OUT INTO THE CAMERA LENS.)
PRESENTER Erm, so Mr. Wonderman, why have you decided to call it a day?
(WONDERMAN STARES BLANKLY AT THE CAMERA.)
PRESENTER Mr. Wonderman?
(WONDERMAN IS UNMOVED.)
PRESENTER Mr. Wonderman!
(WONDERMAN REMAINS UNMOVED.)
PRESENTER (SHOUTS.) Mr Wonderman!!!
(WONDERMAN CUPS AN EAR.)
PRESENTER Would you like to tell our viewers why you have decided to quit?
(WONDERMAN IS CONVULSED BY A FIT OF COUGHING. PRESENTER HANDS HIM A GLASS OF WATER, BUT HE IS SHAKING SO BADLY THAT HE SPILLS IT ALL. EVENTUALLY THE COUGHING SUBSIDES AND HE STARES AT THE PRESENTER.)
PRESENTER You were about to explain to our audience why you have decided to quit.
WONDERMAN Ah yes, of course, I was… Was I? Well, I wanted to quit whilst I was at the peak of my powers, Terry. I feel that if I stay on much longer they may start to wane.
(HE PUTS HIS HANDS UP TO HIS MOUTH AS HE COUGHS AGAIN. HE LOOKS BLANKLY AT THE DENTURES IN HIS HAND BEFORE, WITH SOME DIFFICULTY, PUTTING THEM BACK IN HIS MOUTH.)
PRESENTER But this is an increasingly dangerous world. Don’t you feel that it will be a more dangerous place without you?
WONDERMAN No David, and the reason for this is that I have carefully selected and trained my replacement – May I introduce my apprentice…..
(WONDERMAN SPINS HIS SWIVEL CHAIR TO THE LEFT, IT SPINS ALL THE WAY ROUND LEAVING HIM FACING THE CAMERA AGAIN. HE SHRUGS AND LOOKS OVER HIS RIGHT SHOULDER.)
(WONDERYOUTH ENTERS FROM THE LEFT AND STANDS, UNNOTICED, BEHIND HIM, HANDS ON HIPS. HE IS WEARING AN ILL-FITTING LEOTARD AND A HAND-KNITTED CARDIGAN.)
WONDERMAN Come on.
WONDERYOUTH Excuse me.
WONDERMAN Come on, come on.
WONDERYOUTH (LEANS OVER WONDERMAN’S SHOULDER AND SHOUTS.) Excuse me!!
(STARTLED, WONDERMAN SPINS ROUND IN HIS CHAIR, KNOCKING WONDERYOUTH OVER. HE STILL DOES NOT SEE HIM.)
WONDERMAN Where are you?
WONDERYOUTH (GETTING UP WITH SOME DIFFICULTY) I’m here.
WONDERMAN Oh, nice ploy. You see, Trevor, he has already developed the skill of entering a room undetected.
PRESENTER Very impressive. It can’t have been easy to choose a suitable replacement. Where did you find him?
WONDERMAN The Job Centre, Philip.
PRESENTER And he immediately struck you as the right person for this unique position?
WONDERMAN No, he immediately struck me for trying to jump the queue.
PRESENTER I see, so how has his training progressed?
WONDERMAN A little slowly, Mike. We’re building up his strength opening tomato ketchup bottles; sharpening his reflexes by filling his leotard with itching powder and we’re improving his hearing with the regular application of cotton-buds. His flying is still a little dodgy and when we persuade him to try out his x-ray vision, all he manages to see is the back of his own skull, but he is improving… You will notice that he has been standing there, totally unaided, for several seconds now and has not yet fallen over.
PRESENTER That’s hardly exceptional, is it?
WONDERMAN It’s not bad for a man with a wooden leg.
PRESENTER He’s got a wooden leg?
WONDERMAN No, but I was just making the point; he does have potential.
PRESENTER I see, so can you tell us exactly where this potential is being realised?
WONDERMAN Certainly. He is beginning to master the art of levitation, Barry.
PRESENTER Can we see?
WONDERMAN Of course.
(THEY BOTH TURN TO FACE WONDERYOUTH, WHO JUMPS CLUMSILY.)
WONDERMAN Of course, there’s still room for improvement.
PRESENTER He jumped!
PRESENTER He jumped!
PRESENTER Just then, he jumped.
WONDERMAN Did he?
PRESENTER Yes, he did and you said he was going to levitate.
WONDERMAN Did I?
PRESENTER Yes, you did.
WONDERMAN Well, there you are then.
WONDERMAN Well, it’s a start isn’t it?
PRESENTER A start? The world is hardly going to be safe in his hands is it? The only thing he’s got to recommend him is that he hasn’t got a wooden leg.
WONDERMAN (AFTER A PAUSE FOR THOUGHT) He has got a pushbike.
PRESENTER Oh fine, fine. Well as long as the world’s master criminals all plan cycle-borne getaways we’ll know exactly who to call then, won’t we?
WONDERMAN Yes, we will… We will? Will we?
PRESENTER Oh yes, I’m sure we’ll all sleep soundly in our beds tonight…..
(BEHIND THEM, WONDERYOUTH FALLS OVER. THE PRESENTER STARES DISTRACTEDLY AT THE PRONE YOUTH WHO MAKES NO ATTEMPT TO GET BACK UP.)
PRESENTER Yes, well, thank you very much for coming along today. Mr Alfred Wonderman….
(HE TURNS HIS CHAIR TO ONCE AGAIN FACE WONDERMAN WHO, EYES CLOSED AND MOUTH OPENED, BEGINS TO SNORE LOUDLY.)