Me & Robin Hood
The second of the two HoiPolloi shows at HOME this week, following The Duke, is another monologue from Shôn Dale-Jones which is promoting a cause for which he is raising money, in this case for Street Child United, for which he has raised more than £20,000 through Just Giving since the show's debut at last year's Edinburgh Fringe.
Like the earlier show, Dale-Jones welcomes us into the theatre individually with a handshake, but this time it is just him on a bare stage with a bottle of water—reusable, not disposable, of course—and he tells stories that combine true memories with what could feasibly be true and what clearly isn't, sometimes completely contradicting something in which he made us believe totally earlier in the show.
Time flows freely in both directions in his stories. He is travelling on a train to perform an earlier show and is fined for sitting in a first class carriage, then we are in 11th-century Nottingham where Robin Hood finds out his real father was the Earl of Huntingdon and has just died, leaving him his title.
Suddenly we are in Llangefni in 1975 when Dale-Jones was 7 years old (as was I) and obsessed with The Adventures of Robin Hood on TV, or before the 1979 General Election when his father was voting for Thatcher but his grandmother, who had lived through two world wars and the creation of the welfare state, warns how she would sell off to the bankers what then belonged to the people so that they would control the "story of money". He says that "money is a story that we all agree to"—it's just paper and metal and plastic, he argues to a bemused train guard.
In a juxtaposition of stories including winning the football cup with a youth team, getting arrested as an adult for a publicity stunt in which he appeared to incite people to rob a bank, the bank manager ostentatiously donating his old suit to the charity shop where his grandmother worked, breaking into the local bank as a child and Robin Hood discovering that the Sheriff was plotting against the King and oppressing the poor, parallels are drawn between the bank manager and the Sheriff of Nottingham and between the police and the Sheriff's soldiers.
It's a richly-textured mixture of ideas and stories that becomes richer on later reflection and even points out the flaws and contradictions in its own argument; Dale-Jones is quite frank about his own complicity in the system and failure to act. Except he has acted, in two senses of the word, by bringing the issue to the attention of audiences and raising money. Although, as his discussion with his grandmother about the charity shop pointed out, the charity system in a way maintains the status quo by giving the people who should be rectifying the situation an excuse not to act.
Dale-Jones frequently comes back to the statistic that there are 150 million children living on the streets worldwide, each time stressing the number with the incredulity and disgust it deserves. This show is both an attempt to relieve that suffering and an impotent cry in the dark at the seeming impossibility of making a lasting difference from within a system entirely dictated by money.
Reviewer: David Chadderton