‘The Duke’ is a well-crafted tale constructed to evoke your sense of humanity and leave you feeling warm and cheerful.
It features Shon Dale-Jones who sets the tone immediately creating a nice, low key and intimate vibe. We are told a story and it’s a good one, so good that it begs the question, 'how much of it is real and how much of it is fantasy?'
Shon is from Anglesey, Wales and he is warm and kind. He greets audience members as they enter the theatre, he sits at a desk with a laptop and plays his own sound and music during the show. We are told about a wonderful Swiss wife, a long in gestation screenplay and a sweet widowed Mum who is still out living life to the full but getting older.
Never far from his thoughts is the plight of refugees fleeing war who are not always part of his personal day-to-day existence but whose suffering are a reflection on our own privilege and values. There is also The Duke, a porcelain figurine of the Duke of Wellington, which Shon’s late father bought in the 1970s as an investment. It serves as many things throughout the story but most of all as the physical embodiment of the love we have for those we care about. The way Shon describes these things makes us relate to how much we appreciate our own loved ones and our own aspirations to have successful careers and retain some integrity. You will feel things during this play, Shon himself is pretty upfront about wanting to do that to the audience and he creates a dynamic of sharing his own feelings honestly to elicit that.
There is an open interaction with the audience, some things happen in the moment that will remain unique to the one performance. At moments designed to make the audience laugh or worry, Shon will comment on whether we did or didn’t react the way he expected us to.
If it turned out the whole show was a prank like a Banksy production and Shon left the show and was revealed to have no accent, it would not be a surprise. More likely though, the blurb is accurate, this is a semi-autobiographical tale that blends reality with fantasy.
A year from now being performed somewhere else the show’s narrative might be changed a little but the main points will remain. Shon will tell a good story that will move you and evoke your common humanity, and that is as real as it gets.