Siblings - who needs them! Especially if yours are at war with each other over your mother’s sick bed, your family home has been sold, and you happen to be an artist.
Andrew Pembrooke, Shon Dale-Jones and Sophie Russell in Hugh Hughes - Stories from an Invisible Town at The Pit, Barbican Centre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Since 2005, Hugh Hughes has shared with the world his personal accounts of most major rites of passage one might experience in life - leaving home, losing a parent, first love. Performed on a bare stage, occasionally with a musician, these pieces are presented to us not as theatre but as real life. Content-wise that may well be true, but Hughes himself is an enhanced, more Welsh, more naive, possibly funnier and more charming alter ego of his creator Shon Dale-Jones.
In his previous creations, Dale-Jones has masterfully and single-handedly maintained the audience’s engagement in his wacky and wonderful world by accurately monitoring our every step on the way. Drawing on collective family memories, this time he expands his world in all directions. The 60-minute solo has evolved into a 150-minute piece with an interval, film shorts, songs and comedy routines, even co-starring his brother Derwyn and sister Delyth. This is a risk as added energy brings in inconsistency to an otherwise hermetic world. The past works’ fanciful idea of Anglesey is replaced by gritty images of Welsh village life, and suddenly the journey is more clunky and unwieldy than before, giving rise to more anxieties than it manages to quash in its peace-making finale. Fun as it is, I’d much rather go back inside Hughes’ own head.