Who the hell is… Hugh Hughes?

Posted: Fri Nov 23 2012

Hugh Hughes is the Forrest Gump of the Welsh art scene: a naively brilliant 'emerging artist' who makes audiences laugh and cry with his tall tales of growing up in Llangefni, a little town in Anglesey. But Hughes is actually the creation of ShÙn Dale-Jones, who just happens to have the same hometown, many of the same memories, and even - in previous instalments of Hughes's life story - the same mum. He comes to the Barbican this week for a two-week run of his latest storytelling show, 'Stories from an Invisible Town'.

So who am I talking to today: Hugh Hughes or ShÙn Dale-Jones?
Definitely Shon. I keep the two quite separate.

What's it like having an alter ego?
I don't see it like that. It conjures up ideas that I don't enjoy! When I was a kid, I loved funny guys in TV, like Monty Python. Hugh is a comic character.

So where did Hugh come from, apart from your childhood?
A show called 'Floating', in which we [Dale-Jones's theatre company Hoipolloi] told a story about the Isle of Anglesey floating away from mainland Wales. When we first did it in 2006, I played the character of Hugh, and people would come to the bar and say, 'That was great, Hugh!' It took me by surprise that they though he was real. But it seemed a fascinating thing to explore: the line between fantasy and reality.

You've made Hugh a new website, which offers a memory map of his life. Why?
As I worked on Hugh Hughes, I returned to Anglesey more and more, and all these stories and memories began to emerge. The website is a way of organising chaos. But it's also a new way of sharing those stories, which are the family history of the Hughes family from 1961 to the present day.

What does Hugh's new show mean to you?
Right now, my mum and her friends are the last generation of Angleseyans who've lived there all their lives. The show's about the end of childhood. I wonder: my God, when she goes, will she take everything with her? Will Anglesey disappear? That's why I'm doing it. But do you want to know the facts, or do you want to know the stories? The facts are really dull but the stories are magic.