Wednesday 20 November 2019

Theatre Review: Me & Robin Hood at the Spielman Theatre,Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

This review was first written for British Theatre Guide

Me & Robin Hood is the second of Hoipolloi’s Loose Change trilogy examining inequality and the relative values we ascribe to life and art, while raising money for the charity Street Child United. It follows on from The Duke: Shôn Dale-Jones’s one-man tale of a porcelain family heirloom, that saw him seated at a desk, cueing up his own music and sound effects from a laptop.

For Me & Robin Hood—after his customary handshake greeting at the door—Dale-Jones appears on a stage that is empty aside from his water bottle. Yet, in this stripped-back setting, his storytelling has even more room to flourish. He needs the space to create his narrative—to imagine the front room of his childhood home in Anglesey, a football match he played for his local Llangefni under-11s team or a confrontation with a bank manager after an impromptu one-man demonstration with a placard.

Beneath his genial demeanour and charismatic wit, his personal worries about his mortgage and stress-induced skin condition, Dale-Jones is angry—about the inequality that exists in a world that accepts millions of children living on the streets and the ever-widening gulf between rich and poor stretching back to the Thatcher years. It’s time to invoke the spirit of his fictional friend Robin Hood—whom he first met in 1975, watching the six-part TV series as a seven-year-old, at home with his family and best mate.

In his eyes, Robin was a true radical, gainsaying the authority of the Sheriff of Nottingham and robbing the rich to give to the poor. If he were here today, he wouldn’t be propping up the system by helping in his local charity shop, he’d be exploding the shared myths of society, plundering banks to redistribute cash and rewriting the story of money.

Weaving fact and fantasy together so seamlessly that the audience is left guessing where one finishes and the other begins, Dale-Jones questions our commonly held perceptions of what is acceptable in society. He admits he too is complicit, a product of the boarding-school education his Thatcher-supporting greengrocer father strove to provide for him, that chafes against the social conscience of his grandmother. But his show is raising money for street children and the challenge is there for us all to do what we can.

Looping back and forth through multiple threads, Dale-Jones is such a gifted storyteller and his tale so skilfully crafted that not a moment of this 70-minute monologue sags or drags. Reaching from the 12th century to the present via his childhood exploits, Me & Robin Hood encompasses friends and family, bank managers and robberies, a run-in with the police and an idiosyncratically off-kilter course of therapy. On an empty stage, Dale-Jones pushes at the boundaries; playful, challenging and seething with ideas.

Reviewed on 2 October 2019| Images: Murdo Macleod

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