The Duke

Ushered into our venue we’re greeted by our protagonist, Sean (Hugh Hughes), who gives us a warm handshake and a smile. With a show that treads the lines ever so finely between theatre, spoken word and a chitchat down the pub, this opening gesture seems to seal a warmth in the audience’s hearts that stays with us for the sixty minutes we sit and listen to this man’s story. Told from a chair, with just a table, laptop and microphone in front of him, Sean never leaves his seat – but he doesn’t have to in order to capture our focus.

Hughes crowning glory as a storyteller is his ability to drop small details in throughout that you almost gloss over, until they come back later in the tale as critical and poignant moments in the show’s chronology.

His story centres around four critical elements. The first; a valuable porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington owned by his late father. Second; a film script ten years in the making. Third; the tragedies occurring to refugees fleeing the Middle East. Fourth; an untimely visit from his mother for the weekend. Perhaps an unlikely quartet of themes but the narrative weaves itself seamlessly in this poignant, moving and hilarious story. We hear the tales of battling with a film investor whose demands grow from the absurd to the ludicrous; his frank and funny conversations with his Welsh mother, their exploits trying to replace the figurine that breaks in a dusting incident, all the while with this sub-narrative of refugees trying to cross the seas from Turkey to Greece playing out seemingly in the background.

Hughes’ humour and pace keeps the story alive, despite its frequent twists and turns that sometimes leave the audience questioning, ‘what?’ Despite the show’s publicity giving us a pretty extensive summary of the plot, the audience are kept guessing throughout as elements you expected to go one way quickly dart off in a different direction. Hughes crowning glory as a storyteller is his ability to drop small details in throughout that you almost gloss over, until they come back later in the tale as critical and poignant moments in the show’s chronology. His impressions used to delineate between characters is perfection and his use of music and amplification in order to guide us through the show – highlighting key parts or for added comedic value – mostly hits the intended mark.

The show could undoubtedly do with a little edit, some moments failing to hit their target such as the sidebars regarding his wife and at times the DIY tech could slow down the pace of the action. Hopefully when he gets a few more performances under his belt this will all be ironed out. More important than a few wobbles though is Hughes wonderful likeability, a natural storyteller whose energy ebbed and flowed with the natural undulations of the plot. At the end he neatly tied up the four key elements, and ended by asking us to donate whatever we could, via buckets outside or text message, to Save the Children’s Refugees Crisis Appeal in lieu of paying for the ticket. 

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

As I sat, coming to the frightening realisation that the script I'd been writing for ten years no longer fit in a world that was spiralling out of control, my mother called to tell me the Duke of Wellington, a porcelain figure my father bought for £750 as an investment in 1974, had broken while dusting. It seemed there were three problems to be fixed – the script, the world and the porcelain figure. The Duke playfully mixes fantasy and reality, taking audiences on an imaginative and touching journey full of laughter.

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