S T R E B O R N A R B
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FESTIVAL THEATRE | Reviews
THE DUKE Immediately likeable storytelling from Shôn Dale-Jones ●●●●●
How much are good manners worth? Shôn Dale-Jones’ manners would be quite valuable. After plenty of ‘welcomes’ and ‘thank- you-for-comings’, his etiquette even extends to sincerely thanking the one audience member who (foolishly) chose to slip out of his one-man show The Duke early. This amiable atmosphere is essential for the type of storytelling that Dale-Jones excels at: a radio-like hour of pure text and homespun sound effects.
In 1974, Dale-Jones’ father bought a porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington for £750. It would be worth a pretty penny in today’s money, save for the fact his widowed mother has just knocked it off the mantelpiece. She relays this news to her son over the phone while he is listening to a radio report about the refugee crisis, and also trying to face up to the umpteenth rewrite of a potentially lucrative film script ten years in the making.
The subsequent narrative is engaging and complex, existing somewhere between truth and fiction, drama and radio, fantasy and reality. Dale-Jones is a natural and immediately likeable storyteller, knowing exactly which details to embellish and which to gloss over. He returns frequently to the idea of value: how much is a complete set of porcelain figures worth? Or a film script that is by now only vaguely familiar to him? Or a refugee’s seat on a boat across the Aegean Sea?
This whole show is Dale-Jones’ way of doing something
concrete and useful to aid those in need. Of course, he could have charged a tenner a ticket and given it all to his chosen charity, Save the Children. Instead, he prefers to stand outside the venue with a bucket, looking you square in the eye as he politely shakes your hand and asks you to dig deep. Very valuable manners indeed. (Irina Glinski) ■ Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 29 Aug, 3.30pm, free but ticketed.
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A GOOD CLEAN HEART Punchy bilingual coming-of-age drama ●●●●●
PLEASE EXCUSE MY DEAR AUNT SALLY Illicit student-teacher affair told via texts ●●●●● A BOY NAMED SUE Intelligent, powerful plea for tolerance ●●●●●
Hefin is 18 when his parents – his adoptive parents, it turns out – tell him he has a brother. And that he’s been sending letters for years, which they’ve concealed. After an accidental online encounter, the young man flees smalltown Wales to head to London and his unseen sibling – where he gets a few unexpected insights into the darker sides of contemporary life. It seems churlish to call it a gimmick, but A Good
Clean Heart’s distinguishing feature is that it’s in both Welsh and English, with each language subtitled in the other. But, in the end, Alun Saunders’ script hardly delves into language differences, certainly not as an embodiment of the two men’s contrasting backgrounds. Instead, A Good Clean Heart is a punchy coming- of-age story, with brotherly affection battling against the darker impulses of growing up, and it deals with the inevitable disappointments of adult reality nimbly. James Ifan and Oliver Wellington give very strong, considered performances as the brotherly double act, and Zakk Hein’s video design manages to be both stylish and instructional. It’s a fine achievement – with or without language issues. (David Kettle) ■ Underbelly Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, until 28 Aug (not 22), £10–£11 (£9–£10).
76 THE LIST FESTIVAL 18–29 Aug 2016
You’d be forgiven for thinking Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is a raucous farce about the family drunk. And at times it is – but these are light relief moments from a play about an illicit student-teacher love affair, staged experimentally by New York-based theatre ensemble 59E59. Having opened in New York in 2015, the company
travelled to the Fringe this year where they heard audiences would be a good fit. Compared to the production though, the plot is rather plain, as Red McCray and his algebra teacher fall for each other.
The six-strong ensemble recount the affair in texts – ‘the antsy Morse code of Red’s fingers typing’ and the ‘buzz buzzes’ of night-time meet-ups. These fragments of dialogue are paired with a
physical production. Blots of colour (like Red’s red jacket) distinguish individual characters in tides of choreographed movement, and props are integrated for more dramatic moments (like night-time car rides).
It is a touching piece, but the trouble is plays like Mark Ravenhill’s pool (no water) get one up on it with a more inventive plot and tighter, more expansive choreography to tell it with. (Adam Bloodworth) ■ Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 28 Aug (not 22), £9–£12 (£8–£11).
Britain is crumbling, and the struggle for survival is gathering pace. As another gay club shuts down, young men’s lives overlap in unexpected ways. Writer Bertie Darrell’s blistering monologues trace the zig-zagging paths of bolshy Ian (Oseloka Obi), vulnerable runaway Louie (Charlie James), and flamboyant Sid (Jack Harrold), aka Sue, who has retreated into his house. The stories converge as a triangle of need and aggression; all three men mask their pain through sex and the desire to be loved.
The cyclical dialogue of scrubbing skin clean,
ritual and sacrifice suggests a search for spirituality in an uncaring world. All three performances are beautifully directed by Claudia Lee, who brings out complexities from each – none are victims but instead full of focus and self-determination. Harrold in particular is superb. His Sue is a wisp, yet so very present, always one raised eyebrow away from imploding. Nothing is soft soaped, no answers are proffered, but the tentative resolutions each character undergoes suggest a future. Visceral and thoughtful, this is a sharply intelligent
play which peels away the veneers of social respectability, revealing the humanity. (Lorna Irvine) ■ C nova, 0845 260 1234, until 29 Aug, 6.25pm, £8.50–£10.50 (£6.50–£8.50).