Me & Robin Hood

Wed 2nd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Laura Wilsmore

at 11:44 on 15th Aug 2017

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The story of a man’s relationship with a fictional character, Robin Hood, and his personal experience of the divide between the rich and the poor may initially seem to be difficult to become immersed in. However, Shôn Dale-Jones’ cleverly written and considered performance totally captivated the audience from the moment he walked onto the stage. He openly stated that his main fascination was the human imagination and stories, and this was entirely evident. This show constantly stimulates your own imagination.

With nothing on stage but a bottle of water, the audience were transported to the twelfth century with Robin Hood, nineteen seventies Anglesey and a modern-day rail-journey across England. Shôn guided us through these three fictional presents with ease. All the while, he maintained a connection with the audience, playing with the idea of theatre itself. Shôn humorously noted that Robin Hood was “practising his archery like I’m practising my mime.” The constant eye-contact that the audience received was never unnerving, but always inviting and done with purpose.

One moment that particularly struck me was the creation of the 1975 Anglesey family home. Shôn outlines with his movements the imaginary window, couch (that was “just in front of you there”), and television to set the scene as his younger self watches The Legend of Robin Hood. His ability to then switch between three characters – his father, grandmother and friend – whilst still moving the story along was mesmerising. Thick welsh accents and changes in body language allowed him to embody people who were clearly dear to him. The scene constantly managed to touch on wider issues in a subtle manner that never felt intrusive, as Shôn describes that he was ‘stuck inside the story of money’.

The frequent shifts in tone were all conveyed through his rich voice and subtle movements. His outbursts of anger at the inequality he witnesses shocked; whilst the final heart-wrenching reflections on the passing of family members held the audience in silent awe. It is possible that the pace of the piece was sometimes slightly too fast. The excitement that Shôn builds as the Under 11’s Football Team, or the ‘merry men’, play their last match meant that some lines were lost. However, Shôn had the whole audience in stitches as he insulted the audience’s reaction to the climax of the story, stating that the audience were “better yesterday”.

What is most impressive is the delicate writing of the piece that constantly plays with the lines between what is right and wrong; whether this is discussing the radical Robin Hood, the possession of money or the sides of the political spectrum. I felt compelled to question my responses to the fortunes that one may receive in life. This culminates at the end of the performance as the audience are asked if they should rob a bank like the ‘merry men’, here and now, with Shôn sat in the audience with us. With the show encouraging donations to Street Child United, a charity that supports street children across the globe, there are so many good reasons to go and see this show. The show is sharing opportunities whilst simultaneously being a brilliant piece of storytelling that will connect, inspire and make you reconsider the relevance Robin Hood in the modern world.

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Nina Attridge

at 12:24 on 15th Aug 2017

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Immersive and honest, this show is set in a realm of complete fantasy. But by the end Shôn Dale-Jones’s 'story of money' revealed itself to be so much more. It was a personal tale of how to do the right thing in a post-Thatcher world where 'doing the right thing' can make most feel futile as we live in the shadow of radical heroes who came before. This is what connects Shôn Dale-Jones to the tale of Robin Hood.

The lines between fact and fiction are captivatingly blurred as we are taken through tales of a middle-aged man, rife with middle-class guilt, looking back on his life and how he could have been the hero his Grandmother wanted him to be. Or, how he could have been the realist his father wanted him to be: a lawyer with a Thatcherite emphasis on the 'individual'. Thank God, for our sake- he didn't. No-one is left in any doubt that society does exist after an hour with this aspiring modern-day Robin Hood. It is clear that what he does for the charity, Street Child United World Cup 2018, for whom he encourages donations at the end of the show, he does for the audience. This sometimes-true story reminds us that taking from the rich to give to the poor must take on new meaning in the 21st century, but still leaves you wondering: is it better to work within the system, or rail against it?

There is no denying the self-indulgent nature of a work that mingles a personal obsession with a children's story with a partially fictionized autobiography. He teeters on the flimsy border between insight and ramblings. While this is cathartic for him, he could have lost an audience member that had stayed out a bit too late the night before.

What’s original is in the humbling admission of his weakness, of being a middle-class hypocrite and an inadequate hero, that many are too ashamed to speak of. Everything Dale-Jones tells you feels almost designed to make you dislike him, yet it seems so consciously constructed to render the opposite true. Despite the self-indulgence, and the unsympathetic tendencies we may have towards the middle-class obsession with easing middle-class guilt, you cannot help but warm to him. You warm to him for admitting things you may not wish to admit about yourself, and for still doing a small something to help lessen the gap between rich and poor in its wake.

On a lighter note (be under no illusion that Shôn Dale-Jones isn’t laugh-out-loud funny too) further bonus points go to the fact I was thoroughly captivated by lengthy descriptions of under-11s’ football matches, which would ordinarily struggle to get me to raise my head. He lures you in with sharp wit and self-depreciation, before jolting you harshly back to reality with the sadness in his own past as well as its global parallels.

Robin Hood may not have worked in a charity shop, but Shôn Dale-Jones wouldn't rob a bank, and it is it precisely this relatability which makes you respect what he is saying- and even more so the fact he is saying it on a stage at all.

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