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The Duke

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Shon Dale-Jones seems like a very nice chap. You can tell from the way he welcomes each member of the audience into the theatre, shaking them by the hand to a soundtrack of energising 1960s feel-good soul. Such a personable approach helps create a warm and intimate atmosphere, so when he sits at a desk with only a laptop, a volume control and us for company, you can’t help but be charmed from the start of this hour-long foray, both into his own fantastical mind as well as the discursive set of first-world contradictions it lets loose into the world.

It begins with a Royal Worcester porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, which Dale-Jones’ dad bought in 1974 for £750. This would make it worth more than £8,000 in today’s money if his mum hadn’t broken it while dusting. This is just one more thing for Dale-Jones to think about as he attempts to apply a script doctor’s ruthless critique onto a film script he’s been working on for a decade. Meanwhile, on the radio, refugees are dying as they attempt to flee their homeland.

Dale-Jones’ comic reimagining of real life has raised almost £40,000 for Save the Children since it first appeared in 2016 in the Hoipolloi company’s production. The world has got a whole lot worse, alas, since he first unfurled his meditations on his own personal and artistic ambitions in the face of liberal guilt. No matter, because the quiet power of this funny, gentle and exquisitely empathetic jewel of a piece is its ability to humanise a global crisis by personalising it. The image of Dale-Jones watching his ageing mother climb precariously aboard her little boat in Anglesey is a beautifully observed snapshot that shines a light on those in even more perilous waters.

The Herald, April 5th 2018

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