The Riverbank Palais is proving to be a fantastic addition to the Adelaide Festival program this year, hosting a diverse range of performances and forums, including The Duke, a theatre piece by Shôn Dale-Jones. The play begins its limited three night season on the floating venue from this evening, with half the proceeds going to Save the Children’s child refugee efforts.

“The story started from a position where I was keen to make a show which could raise money for child refugees,” explains Shôn. “That was the task I set myself and I wanted to find a way of making the show as personal as possible, to humanise the situation that they’re in, and try to find a way of empathising with them, so an audience would relate their own lives to the plight of refugees.

“The Syrian conflict has been going on for so long, and you see pictures on the television and you hear reports on the radio every day. You’re devastated by what’s going on there and you wonder what you’re able to do to help in any way. Some people go to camps and do theatre workshops, but I decided to use storytelling as a way of supporting what they’re going through.”

Shôn believes that storytelling through the medium of theatre can provide a powerful way to connect with this issue.

the_duke_adelaide_festival_large“I think storytelling is a really useful way of engaging people,” he says. “What I think we’ve managed to do with this show is to avoid any kind of politicking around the situation because obviously it becomes a sort of political football and I think what you do when you tell a story in the theatre, you manage to touch the humanity of all of us and that makes it more powerful than when people engage with it in a political arena, when people are talking about statistics and economics and history. When you see a child suffering from war and they’re completely innocent, you say surely there’s something we can do about this.”

And this question about what can be done is something that The Duke addresses directly.

“The show is very clear about what audiences can do to make the situation better,” Shôn explains, “because a lot of people feel the problem is so big they can’t do anything. But what Save the Children manage to do in back in the UK and in Europe, is they use the money really effectively to support these children, whether it’s medical support in the camps or educational programs, or actually getting them into the country and supporting them while they’re being relocated. So it’s really pragmatic what I try to do at the end of the show, to make very clear that all audiences need to do is to delve into their pockets and put a bit of money in a bucket. It’s very simple.”

This will be Shôn’s first time in Adelaide and he is looking forward to catching other works at the festival, as well the opportunity to present this work in the unique setting of the floating Palais. In fact, The Duke has a history of playing in some very unique locations.

“When I first opened the show it played in a very big charity shop, in the middle of second-hand furniture and clothes,” he laughs, “so audiences really enjoyed discovering the show in a slightly different space. We also played it in the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, which won the Stirling award for architecture, the first time a theatre had won that award. The new theatre there is such an exciting theatrical space, so that was a really great venue to play the show in. The show is made so it can be played pretty much anywhere.”

The Duke will be performed at the Riverbank Palais tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:45. Tickets and details can be found here.

By Matthew Trainor