Me & Robin Hood at the Royal Court Theatre
The battle between Thatcherite father and socialist grandmother. Flashbacks to the “real” Merry Men and their 70s, under-11s football team counterparts. A spontaneous instance of civil disobedience. A childhood bank robbery. All fantastic moments in Shôn Dale-Jones shaggy Me & Robin Hood, a piece about the story of money and the injustice of opportunity that nevertheless fails to probe as deeply as it needs to.
There are parallels here with Rob Drummond’s The Majority, currently on at the National Theatre. If you stripped away that production’s flash-bangery you’d end up with something like Me & Robin Hood. While the central focus is different – capitalism and the “money story” for Robin Hood, the erosion of political discourse and the rise of the right for The Majority – both seek to provoke discussion through a personal tale that flirts with fiction presented as reality (admittedly Dale-Jones is far more overt in this regard, and it’s a well he goes back to one too many times).
It’s interesting, then, that both productions arguably fail to fully integrate the core concepts that, on paper, give them a leg up over other one-man shows. Just as Drummond never quite justifies the audience voting, using it to simulate debate without ever engaging with it, the moments when Dale-Jones mentions street children or the charity Street Child jar with his main narrative in a way that feels clumsy.
Part of that is likely intentional; without any preamble, the statistics peppered through the play end up hitting harder. And of course, the systems of oppression that lead to 150 million children on the streets are tied to the kind of narratives proliferated by Thatcher and Reagan in the 80s, the “look after yourself” attitude and gulf in opportunity that Dale-Jones touches upon. However, repeatedly Me & Robin Hood gets near the topic of how we help people and the potential flaws (and, indeed, benefits) in our methods of aid – Robin Hood is Dale-Jones’s childhood role model – before retreating into layers of meta-storytelling.
The performer’s decision to donate his profits from the production – raised through contributions from the audience – to the aforementioned Street Child is undeniably admirable. It’s just that as a piece of theatre, separate from those money-raising intentions, Me & Robin Hood (perhaps inevitably) never really gets close to redefining the capitalist narrative.
Me & Robin Hood is at the Royal Court Theatre from 4th until 16th September 2017. For further information or to book visit here.