The past few weeks have been in a veritable treat in Brighton as far as theatre in concerned. Last Friday I had the delight of attending Hugh Hughes’ performance of his new show Stories from an Invisible Town at Brighton Dome. Until a few months ago I was totally unaware that the world was a place inhabited by an emerging artist from Wales named Hugh Hughes – then I got to interview him for a feature on A Younger Theatre and everything changed.
I don’t know if you’re aware of Hugh Hughes and who he may or may not be, I don’t know how much you know of the exciting layers of narrative that surround him – I also don’t know how much you want to know. If you are unaware of who this man is and what I’m going on about I’d suggest that first of all you visit Hugh’s website…
…it’s fun isn’t it? The first time I stumbled upon this virtual space was actually an accident and I can’t remember how I got there (prior to AYT article research) but I remember being a little overwhelmed by the curious personality exuding from it. It’s great that Hugh has embraced the digital in his work and persona in this way – in fact Stories from an Invisible Town comes complete with its own online space and Hugh is thinking of moving into the digital arena more in the future.
Hugh, in his projects, is certainly exploring the notion of identity and more broadly of the experience of being human. Watching the performance I actually felt quite exposed as the work was so truthful to my own experiences and – I felt – to everybody else’s around me. That’s the thing with Hugh’s work, it is so intensely personal yet manages to reach out to the universal at the same time. As Hugh with his cheeky, amusing and instantly charming persona chatted to us as a collective audience (sometimes focusing on one single member) the feeling of being a collective group invited to share an experience, a world and to question things together was hugely present.
This show, performed with Hugh’s brother and sister, is about family and about memories and their hugely palpable presence in our lives. It is constructed around the story of its own development, interweaving stories of family memories with the tale of how Hugh worked on his ‘memory project’ and got his family involved in it. It is deceptively simple as a show – amateur in feeling yet professional in effect. Amateur in the aesthetics of super 8 camerawork on small projection screen, of voice recordings to be experienced with our eyes closed (one of the most effective moments for me) and of the way the show’s whole structure was on display. It felt very much like when children prepare a performance for the family – breaking out into petty squabbles about what’s happening next, reminding each other where the show is going and that it is a performance for an audience – that kind of thing. But for all this comedy and light-heartedness it’s a performance that packs as profound a punch as any I’ve ever experience; the final address to the audience really had me contemplating my own life and, as Hugh urges us to do, consider “how you can make the most out of your life”.
There is – of course – another layer to Hugh’s work and that’s the secret that has begun to be revealed to the general public but that some people are still unaware of. If you don’t want to know the secret about Hugh then stop reading now, if you want to know then head on over to A Younger Theatre and read my feature on Hugh Hughes...
THE SECRET ABOUT HUGH HUGHES
… so Hugh isn’t real, he’s a construct, a character (as we all are to some extent) and the alter ego of Shon Dale Jones. Mind blown? Mine was – I find this whole idea fascinating and raising so many questions about how we view people on stage, how knowing this alters the way we experience Hugh’s work or does it at all? Even questions about personality, identity and how we construct our own selves…PHEW.
I have to say I felt slightly superior when overhearing fellow audience members discussing Hugh as a real person, questioning how he got his brother and sister to go on tour with him. But then knowing that he isn’t real I did wonder how anyone could think he was – it seemed so obvious, he seems too much of a character to be real. Does this mean we accept anything as reality if it’s presented convincingly enough (even through performance) and doesn’t this present endless opportunities for the playful blurring of the line between reality and fiction?
Hugh’s work is interesting and enjoyable on so many levels. It’s entertaining, thought provoking and playful in both its construction and delivery. It’s work like the whole Hugh project that is truly exciting in the way it plays with theatre, storytelling and the creation of worlds. Hugh is on at the Barbican in London from 28th November to 8th December and you really should see him if you can.