Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Ladder

Shôn Dale-Jones in collaboration with Stefanie Müller and Julian Spooner
Shôn Dale-Jones presents Hugh Hughes in a HioPolloi Production
The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth

The Ladder

The third piece in Shôn Dale-Jones’s Loose Change Trilogy is The Ladder, "an uplifting story about a down fall".

Commissioned by Norfolk and Norwich Festival in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth and Cambridge Junction to write and perform a piece on the theme of responsibility to follow on from The Duke and Me and Robin Hood, Dale-Jones finds himself too pessimistic for inspiration so channels his alter ego, the personable Hugh Hughes, to take charge.

Facing a blown-up photo of a ripped poster reminding him that "Optimists always win in the end", Hughes combines Greta Thunberg’s small treatise, his father’s fatal fall from a ladder and a tedious wait for his number to come up on the GP’s waiting list to debate responsibility—corporate, collective and individual—through chat and re-enactment.

With the help of his father (Daniel Hughes), the emerging (for the past 15 years) artist draws the audience into an unpredictable ride through the life flashing before his father’s eyes, global extremis and the perennial fruit pastilles v wine gums debate with vignettes and reminiscences. With the houselights up, there’s no hiding from the one-to-one chat and therein lies Dale-Jones’s USP: a canny storyteller treading a very fine line between pathos, comic observation and hard-hitting fact.

As ivory-billed woodpeckers and corner shop greengrocers become extinct, orang utans hang on by their fingertips, Japanese sea lions and Mexican bears exit stage left and buses fall down holes in Norwich roads, bullyboy tactics and spanner-wielding politics are examined and the evil (or not) nature of mankind analysed.

As cheaper butter is deemed better for society than the heartbeat centre of a village shop, the convenience of 100 million barrels of oil daily outweigh the devastating effect on our planet, Hughes senior’s optimism for the new millennium lies in tatters, notwithstanding surviving only 16 months of 2K.

Optimism is tough in such a bleak environment and the parallels between dad refusing his medication and society turning a blind eye to fixing world malaise are stark as Hughes and Thunberg reckon there is still time to fix this and, provided there are rules put in place, it’s not too late. Apparently.

Much thought-provoking stuff scattered among the laughs and challenges. Well worth a look.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell