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The Duke review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘charming but slight’

Shon Dale-Jones in The Duke at the Pleasance Dome Shon Dale-Jones in The Duke at the Pleasance Dome

A free ticket in the Pleasance Courtyard is a rare thing, unless you count desperate flyerers clutching bunches of unsold ones.

But that’s the deal with The Duke, the latest show by Hugh Hughes creator Shon Dale-Jones. Hugh’s nowhere to be seen this year, with Dale-Jones instead addressing us directly, spinning a shaggy-dog story about an endlessly redrafted film script and a quest to replace a broken ornament.

It’s a warm, meandering tale, as Dale-Jones ponders an offer from a big-shot film producer to make his movie, at the expense of swingeing cuts and changes, while also helping his mother cope with her increasing loneliness and isolation in age.

It’s engaging but unspectacular, never quite taking flight, with occasional asides to reflect on the current fate of child refugees that feel oddly tacked on.

It’s a show about making the right decision, about the balancing of priorities and sacrifices, and the costs, real and metaphorical, of our actions.

This is brilliantly reflected in the play’s conclusion, where Dale-Jones encourages the audience to donate the money they would have spent on a ticket to Save the Children. But as admirable as that is as a gesture, it can’t prevent the show from coming up a little slight.

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Charming but slight story about doing the right thing, with an admirably charitable bent