Credit: Duncan Hodgkinson / Facebook

Dante and the Robot is a comedic dystopian, avant-garde solo play, set to run every day from 2 to 25 August 2024 at the ZOO Playground from 16:30 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival​, one of the world’s largest celebrations of arts and culture. 

The play was supported by Luxembourg’s Ministry of Culture and by the Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte. Written and performed by the Anglo-French actor Duncan Hodgkinson, Dante and the Robot was directed by Jamie Wood.

The play takes place in a “dark future”, in which a man is on a quest to find “the knight inside”. Dante is alone in his flat in a busy, bustling metropolis, with a house robot named She-bot as his sole companion. His girlfriend left for Japan to disconnect from technology and live an older, simpler way of being. Dante feels lost. Trapped in an unfulfilling job he hates, he embraces escapism by writing a film. As the screenplay emerges, the audience joins a Spanish knight on a quest alongside his French squire, battling monsters and travelling through impressive landscapes. Gradually, Dante's worlds begin to merge, overlap and intertwine around him.

Duncan Hodgkinson is based between Luxembourg, Barcelona and London. He has worked on Spanish, French, British and Chinese productions for theatre and film, and he wrote and produced his own work, as well. His first step in his acting career was playing Peter Cratchitt and Young Scrooge in a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Duncan attended the East 15 Acting School (2015-2018) and trained with the Demidov LAB London (2020-2022). had the opportunity to speak to Duncan Hodgkinson and discuss the creation of Dante and the Robot, the selection process to join the Fringe Festival and his hopes for the future regarding the play. Please tell us more about how this project started. How did you come to participate in Dante and the Robot?

Duncan Hodgkinson: The project had many beginnings. It started as research based on the character of Mark Anthony in Shakespeare's political drama Julius Caesar, which I was working on over lockdown in 2020. I managed to perform very early stages of the show outdoors at the park and over online theatre events. But it was so different back then! The project got benched and in 2022, I had the luxury of meeting Jamie Wood, clown and director, in Glastonbury, UK in a clowning workshop which he led. Jamie encouraged me to continue developing the play. It's hard not to include personal life events when answering this question because, as you probably know, art often has a way of mixing in with your personal experiences and motivations. Long story short: I went to India, broke up with a toxic girlfriend, began developing a new script of the now-called Dante and the Robot, received research and development funds from the Ministry of Culture in 2023, brought my director Jamie Wood to Luxembourg, then received startup funds in November 2023. I did WIP [work in progress] in Luxembourg and later in London, and now I’m preparing for the Fringe. What inspired you to co-write this play? How did the writing process go?

Duncan Hodgkinson: Heartbreak, self-investigation, asking questions... I had, on the way society is moving forward, a desire to create and work as an actor and to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It really began with research on the element of power in our society and how human psychology seems easily manipulated into powerless situations. The theme of power was a solid starting point. And as I began working with Jamie, we began co-creating the project. So now I cannot say the final product is merely my creation, Jamie's input has been key to unlocking many elements of the play I had not seen before. Could you share your journey of getting your play accepted into the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?

Duncan Hodgkinson: I have quite a few videos on my Instagram about the process. I knew very early on that I wanted to participate in the festival, and when I received the startup fund from Oeuvre, I knew it was possible. I started in December 2023, contacting venue hosts, enquiring about the Fringe and my participation in it... Slowly but surely I started getting responses and requests to perform my play in their venues. Then, it was a simple selection process on my behalf on what time and theatre space best suited my work. Now I am performing at a great venue, ZOO Playground, in an intimate 40-seat theatre with a great time. What are your expectations and hopes for the performance at the festival? What do you hope viewers will take away from it?

Duncan Hodgkinson: Well, I think everyone will get something different from the play. I play many different characters and all have different values, ambitions and desires, and I am sure depending on how you're feeling as you step into the theatre, you will connect more with perhaps the Sage, or the Spanish knight errant, or simply connect with Dante's life as he ambitiously attempts to progress his future. Overall, the play captures the duality of life - should we commit to living in a progressing city, or go away to live a more calm and grounded life in the suburbs? I guess I want people to ask themselves that question. But most of all, it's a comedy, quite absurd, so I want people to laugh and have a good time! After the Fringe, I am looking to transform the play into a film, so I am reaching out to producers here in Luxembourg as well as abroad. I think this could do well on tour and in cinemas. But one thing is sure, that is I hope to perform it in Luxembourg when I am back!