On Tuesday night I got my chance to see Floating, but just as every performance Hugh Hughes and Sioned Rowlands give is a little bit unique to each audience, this night too was a little different as the audience was treated to a talk-back and a chance to meet the real Hugh Hughes.
So, after meeting Hugh Hughes the performer, I bet you're all dying to know what he's really like. Well I am delighted to report back my findings: he's the exact same. That's right, that charming, vulnerable, quick-witted man who's every word you hung onto throughout the story, is the same man who, after the lights had lifted, took a seat on stool, sipped a cold beer and chatted with the crowd like we were old mates.
Audience participation is a huge part of Hugh's storytelling, which is often curiously absent in live theatre, or clumsily integrated into select plays. But with Hugh, everything is genuine. What you see is what you get and it doesn't stop when the show does.
For instance, when Bill Menard (Arts Club Artistic Managing Director) presented a cake to Hugh and Sioned to mark the 151st performance of the show (an oddity that baffled Hugh and may have contributed to a mixed idea of Canadians), Hugh invited all of us who remained to help him blow out the single candle. And then, at then end of it all, he got onto his hands and knees, cut the cake and served slices to people on the way out the door. But not before we learned a little bit about him.
Fact 1: Hugh got his start taking photographs of beached whales around, ahem, Wales.
Fact 2: While exhibiting his photographs, Hugh had what the program pamphlet calls 'a chance encounter' with Hoipolloi's Shon Dale-Jones, who ultimately convinced Hugh to get into theatre
Fact 3: Nobody has ever actually gotten naked during a performance of Floating, although once a lady came up on stage and got underneath the modesty towel with the naked Hugh.
Sometimes we go to theatre to escape and get lost in a story or characters that are so unlike ourselves, we appreciate the barriers that these actors create. But the truth is, it's equally amazing to spend an evening with someone who presents themselves as they are and still manages to captivate you with an incredible story. Hugh is the type of guy who you meet and instantly wish was your best friend. So it is with the character on stage, and I am happy to say, so it is with the real Hugh Hughes.
See what Hugh thinks of Canada at The Wonderful World of Hugh Hughes.