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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007

  Hugh Hughes in...
Pleasance, Edinburgh

Andrew Haydon
posted 28 August 2007

Following last year’s massive hit Floating, Hoi Polloi founder Shôn Dale-Jones’s naïve clownish alter ego Hugh Hughes returns to the Fringe with The Story of The Rabbit. Much has already been written about Hughes’s much vaunted quality of charm and relentless wide-eyed naivety. These are very much matters of taste. Clearly a lot of people find Hughes a likeable, engaging creation. For my money the ‘charm’ is forced and ingratiating. Similarly, the whimsical story itself is likely to irritate as many as it delights.

What is more interesting is Dale-Jones’s heavy reliance on explanations of meta-theatrical devices. This is interesting, not least because now that the show, playing in the lofty barn that is Pleasance Two, is attracting wider, more mixed audiences than the perhaps more niche crowd who normally attend the more experimental end of theatre. As a consequence, jokes about being an ‘emerging artist’ don’t quite hit the mark across the board. Being knowing only really works if one’s audience knows what you are knowing about, so to speak.

The substance of the show is, as the title suggests, a short tale about looking after a neighbour’s rabbit, intercut with Hughes talking about his father’s death – until, in a surprising twist, the two narratives unexpectedly meet. For all that the piece is well-constructed and engaging, I found that its relationship to reality simply didn’t marry with anything like life as it is lived. It is all well and good to create these faux naïf idiot savant figures, but the point is that they accidentally stumble across ideas that strike their audience as profound or acute. Hughes’ ideas are simply, well, simple, and fail to strike any chords at all. Evidently there is a growing fashion solipsistic and twee clowning, but you can count me out.


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