‘Me & Robin Hood’ is the second in a series of solo shows from Hoipolloi’s award-winning Artistic Director Shôn Dale-Jones that questions ‘the value of art’ and the power of story. Following on from ‘The Duke’, which captured the public’s imagination with its combination of theatre and fundraising and raised over £36,500 in its first year of touring, ‘Me & Robin Hood’ has been produced to raise money for Street Child United World Cup 2018.
Shon Dale-Jones is a liar. And a bloody good one too. The worlds he creates are all the more confusing for mixing reality with fiction and offering no signposts with which to navigate. He’s previously lied about his entire persona, creating the (presumably) semi-autobiographical Hugh Hughes with which to tour several successful shows. This, and his last solo play The Duke both see him under his own name but, I suspect, not entirely in his own skin.
The show tells the story of a day when Dale-Jones went a bit funny and decided to stage a solo anti-capitalist demonstration in a provincial high street.
He tells the story extremely slowly, in minute detail, with plenty of tangents, asides and demolitions of the fourth wall. These tiny details help to sell the story. Despite having seen him before, at first it didn’t even occur to me to doubt anything he was saying. But as he points out correctly at the end, what does it matter what’s true?
There are several snide comments at the audience, very much in the vein of Stewart Lee. And, as with Lee, the line between what’s real and what’s an act becomes blurred. But where Lee tries extremely hard to alienate and antagonise the audience, Dale-Jones does seem to want you to like him. And although that could also be part of the act, he is, in fact, genuinely very likeable.
So how much is real? I have seen him several times, and he did come across more desperate and unhinged than usual, and at a few points, particularly early on, he does seem to be quite genuinely upset. He lashes out at a man who answers on behalf of his partner, then tortures himself with what really do seem to be genuinely antagonistic instincts to both apologise and also hurriedly acknowledge his own failings, and that of society “On stage I can say anything to you, but in the real world you could just beat me up,” he observes. “Oh, I hate this power!” This seems to me to be an extremely clever joke, and one which helps my search for authenticity not one jot.
In the end, as he points out, it doesn’t matter. Thematically the show is pretty consistent, being mostly about childhood reminiscence, football, capitalist greed and Robin Hood.
Shon Dale-Jones (if that is his real name) is a very interesting artist indeed. I will certainly be equally intrigued and happy to see what he does next, and would strongly encourage nearly everyone else to do the same.