It may seem tricky to link a broken porcelain statue of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, a film script, and the refugee crisis together into a coherent, entertaining, almost-real story. But this is what Shon Dale-Jones and theatre company Hoipolloi have done, fashioning together a simplistically staged (but by no means simple) tale about the value of our actions. This free shows, with its proceeds going towards Save the Children, is not only totally enjoyable to watch, but carefully reminds us about the urgency and importance of the refugee crisis in our own lives.
The script that Dale-Jones has crafted is impressive: friendly, surprisingly gripping, and, above all, water-tight. Dale-Jones makes distinct links between a film script he wrote over ten years, a small porcelain figurine that his father bought in the 70s, and the refugee crisis – subjects that may seem tenuously linked, and yet Dale-Jones subtly weaves them together without making the point feel strained or laborious.
It’s clear from the beginning that the show is an ambiguous mix of fact and fiction, but that is almost part of the fun. Whether or not all of these events, which at time border on the inexplicably coincidental, are real or fantasy, it doesn’t matter. Dale-Jones delivers the show with such conviction that we believe this version of events, no matter how improbable they may be.
The show is told only with Dale-Jones’ narration and a laptop equipped with an impressive range of songs to use as his disposal. A lot of the music used is often cliché, deliberately so, and would be obvious distracting to the narrative if they weren’t reminiscent of the 52 changes the film producer in Dale-Jones’ story requests he makes to his script.
Tiny soundbites, setting the scene with familiar-sounding music that often fits what we would expect from scenes in a film, underscore the story, and are abruptly terminated as we jump-cut to the next part of the narrative. Although the play is a little static – Dale-Jones never gets up from the desk – the visual images that he conjures up are mostly enough to keep the audience’s imagination fed.
Most importantly, Hoipolloi’s show, while entertaining, also has a serious and touching motive at its heart. Throughout the script, the refugee crisis is not only referenced, but embedded in the script, reminding us that it is part of our lives and important to us, instead of something we think of fleetingly and then can forget.
The show is free, with Dale-Jones asking us to donate money to Save the Children instead. On its own, this is a great thing, at a festival where it is easy to become insular and lack self-awareness. Coupled with a show that actually does make one think about value, and value beyond the financial, Dale-Jones has achieved quite a special thing.