Theatre Royal Plymouth, SDJ Productions, Pontio Bangor and Cairde Festival Sligo
The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth
Recalling the delightful Floating—the daft but humorous tale of Anglesey, resplendent with 20-mile-high mast and mad dictator at the helm, cast adrift for a waft about the Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean—an invite to Still Floating conjured a fun sequel with the engaging Hugh Hughes. But it was not to be.
Invited to remount his 2006 Total Theatre award-winning hit show provoked award-winning writer and performer Shôn Dale-Jones to consider the parallels between then and now, and concluded that a re-run was no longer appropriate as the world is in 2022 is a very different place—but noted how going back can help move forward.
Hugh Hughes is, sadly, no more. Dale-Jones has shed his alter ego and taken on a more serious but rather confusing mantle. The old-fashioned, understated humour is still lurking but the innocence is flimsy with barely disguised political comment, second home debate and polemic on belonging and xenophobia.
There is still much gentle storytelling and Dale-Jones is eminently likeable but the nexus with his family crises and mother’s medical detail is uncomfortable and seemingly unnecessary. As Hughes, we are never sure whether the detail is true or not so, somehow, the detail of his father’s demise or family upsets become more palatable.
Quick switch juxtaposition of snippets from Hughes’s Floating and a recent visit to his home following his mother’s fall and her devastating diagnosis, keep things pacey but the 2022 post-Brexit, post-pandemic commentary becomes drum-banging rather than the more usual, more influential subtle lessons we are used to from Hughes.
A lifetime of shared history with 4m-tennis-ball-light-switch-off champion homeboy Dylan allows Dale-Jones to explore his privileged—or not—mainland schooling defining future occupations and choice of where to live, while Greta’s decision to return to Berlin as she no longer recognises the Great Britain she made her home gives credence to discussion of second homes and right to call any place one’s own.
Mrs Dale-Jones’s wish for a Viking funeral evokes early raids of the island from the Norsemen who, aside from the rape and pillage, seem quite decent in her, failing, eyes, again questioning the right of ownership of place and exclusion of others from it.
Love Island and the devastation in Ukraine illustrate disconnect and the craziness of now while fruity floatation devices, '70s modesty towels, £275.00 technique courses run by a silent guru, seven days of painful posture and the theft of a legendary rock blend the real and unreal in a confused, unfocused tangle which peters out with so many threads drawn but most left dangling.
The Edinburgh Fringe offering is now on tour.
Reviewer: Karen Bussell