I’ve been looking forward to seeing this new play for ages. I like going to Hull Truck but for some reason we don’t go very often; probably because I get to book RSC tickets much earlier in advance.
Anyway, this production is a collaboration between Hull Truck and RSC and is part of the Hull UK City of Culture programme. And we decided that since it was a play about Hull we would see it in Hull.
There has been quite a lot of local news coverage about the play – interviews with the writer, director and cast members as well as footage of rehearsals – which left me intrigued but not buzzing.
Essentially, the play is the story of Sir John Hotham, the man who closed the gates of Hull to Charles I at the start of the English Civil War. The action takes us from Sir John trying to work out where is loyalties lie in the dispute between King and Parliament to his beheading for treason in London. The play is a good balance of comedy and serious message.
I had forgotten what a good actor Mark Addy is until I saw him in this. I thought his comic timing was excellent and I think the audience got a good sense of Sir John as a vain man trying to ensure he and his family came out of the Civil War with their prestige intact but who ends up in an unwinnable situation.
The banter and bickering between Sir John and Lady Hotham was the viciously funny slanging match of 2 people who are stuck in a marriage that has long-lost any mutual respect. Caroline Quentin was a good foil for Mark Addy but I did think she was under utilised in the play.
It was great to see Martin Barrass back on stage after his nasty accident last year. Having only ever seen him on stage as Berwick Kaler’s sidekick in York Theatre Royal Pantomime it was a bit shocking to see him in a real play but it soon stopped being a distraction as I was drawn into the unfolding story. I rather suspect this part may come back to haunt him in the next York Theatre Royal pantomime! And I’m looking forward to it.
Danielle Bird, who played Drudge the servant, was an excellent tragi-commedic character. I loved the clowning even though it sometimes distracted from the storytelling going on elsewhere on stage.
The least convincing bit of the play, for me, was the ghost child. The special effects were great but it wouldn’t have an impact on the play if the character was cut. I’m not sure what the point was.
Overall, I enjoyed my evening and am now trying, so far unsuccessfully, to get tickets to see it when it transfers to The swan in Stratford – I really want to see what non-Hull audiences make of the play. I’ll report back if/when I do.