REVIEW: Teechers Leavers ’22, Hull Truck Theatre and John Godber Company, at Hull Truck Theatre, term ends on June 11 *****

Teenage rampage: Martha Godber’s Hobby, left, Levi Payne’s Salty and Purvi Parmar’s Gail in Teechers Leavers ’22 at Hull Truck Theatre

ON learning that Gavin Wilkinson was to receive a Boris Johnson-garlanded knighthood, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson commented: “He left children to go hungry, created two years of complete chaos over exams and failed to get laptops out to kids struggling to learn during lockdowns.”

If reading her end-of-term report on Wilkinson’s “astonishing and disgraceful record” brings out feelings of anger all over again, then multiply that fury in John Godber’s 35th anniversary re-write of Teechers, his despairing 1987 tragi-comedy on the rotten state of state education.

To mark the 50th anniversary of his former Hull Truck stamping ground, he has revisited Teechers in the stultifying shadow of Covid, the encouragement of science and technology over the arts on the school curriculum and the never-ending systemic inequalities that divide swish private education establishments from state schools with leaking, outdated buildings.

Central character Salty, one of those pupils with no laptop, is doing his homework on his mobile phone: perhaps the most damning image in Teechers Leavers ’22.

Godber, the miner’s son from Upton, West Yorkshire, educated at Bretton Hall College and Leeds University, is a former teacher with not only Teechers to his name, but also Chalkface, the 1991 TV drama series charting the day-to-day events at a comprehensive school.

“How come people get education so wrong?” he said in an interview in 2008 when launching an earlier revival of his classroom comedy that dismissed the Labour Government’s latest proposed tinkering as nothing more than “rearranging the chairs on the Titanic”.

Lessons learned? Not since 1987, it would seem, as John Godber revisits Teechers to deliver an even more damning report

Labour Government, note. His righteous anger goes beyond party lines, even if, 14 years later, his frustration with England’s education system has reached boiling point under Tory rule. Exacerbated by the pandemic, state education equals: exam chaos, tech poverty, isolation, absenteeism, lost school hours, remote learning, the arts downgraded, children let down, he says.

Plus ca change, you might say. Teechers was rooted in Godber’s response to them-and-us education in the Thatcher years, but it does not feel a period piece at all, partly through grievances aplenty from 1987 still applying in  2022, and partly because of Godber’s extensive update.

His trademark fast-and-furious physical theatre style; his Brechtian love of breaking down theatre’s fourth wall; his deployment of a high-energy cast of only three to play multiple roles; his relish for social comment and his penchant for bloody-minded, bloody-nosed, raucous humour are all very much alive and kicking in Teechers Leavers ’22.  So too is preference for pathos over sentimentality.

Hull Truck artistic Mark Babych matches him stride for stride in his up-and-at’em direction, and 35 years since Godber himself played drama teacher Geoff Nixon, now his daughter Martha Godber is doing so, the role newly turned female.

Covid masks, Ofsted reports and a Partygate joke feature now, but funding shortages, baffling timetables, boring teachers and bored teenagers remain, as Martha Godber’s Hobby, Purvi Parmar’s Gail and Levi Payne’s Salty narrate the tale of their stultifying life at struggling comprehensive Whitewall College.

Set designer Caitlin Mawhinney splashes the set with bold colours, as a counter to the greyness that pervades the school, but if, in the words of Madness’s schoolroom anthem Baggy Trousers, there needs to be someone “trying different ways to make a difference to the days,” step forward new probationary teacher, Miss Nixon.

School uniformity? Not if Levi Payne’s Salty, Martha Godber’s Hobby and Purvi Parmar’s Gail have their way in Teechers Leavers ’22

Having seen off three previous drama teachers, scathing Salty and co are initially dismissive of the newcomer, but even if theatre has been relegated to an after-school option, Miss Nixon is not to be beaten.

The role previously had been played in more serious mode; Martha Godber makes her no-nonsense, but also more of a grouchy outsider, a lone voice, determined to help the three disillusioned teenage protagonists blossom.

Nixon remains John Godber’s voice too, calling for change, for better recognition of the importance of the arts in shaping young lives, but the ending becomes a more damning statement than ever with its abandonment of all hope.

Or maybe not. In his interview, Godber said if he were a young man today, he would still go into teaching, a profession that needs more Miss Nixons, more John Godbers.

Mark Babych and his cast, switching from role to role, sometimes even taking over each other’s roles, never letting the pace drop, dipping into rap, equally adept at troubled teenager and exasperated, exhausted teacher alike, make Godber’s school report all the more powerful. Oh, and amid the rage, it is seriously funny too.

Box office: 01482 323638 or hulltruck.co.uk.

Review: Hull Truck Theatre in Richard Bean’s 71 Coltman Street ****

Joanna Holden’s Mrs Snowball and Adrian Hood’s Our Seth

71 Coltman Street, Hull Truck Theatre, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow. Box office: 01482 323638 or at hulltruck.co.uk.

HULL Truck was not formed in a van – that came a little later – but a squat in Coltman Street in 1971, founded by actor-musician Mike Bradwell when unable to find work.

“I wanted to be nuisance,” said Bradwell, a firebrand iconoclast who sought to make theatre about, by and for real people. Even the left-leaning, arts-championing Guardian met his scorn.

To kick start Hull Truck’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2022, artistic director Mark Babych asked Hull playwright and film writer Richard Bean to tell the story of those Coltman Street revolutionary beginnings.

The result is a “riotous new comedy” from the ever-irreverent Bean, a former stand-up and psychologist with a love of people showing two fingers to – or at least challenging – authority and the status quo, be it Francis Henshall in One Man, Two Guvnors or Kempton Bunton in the newly released film The Duke.

Bean did extensive research for 71 Coltman Street, interviewing Bradwell and fellow hippy-haired revolutionaries, and what appears on stage is a fusion of the truth and the not-so-true but you wish it were, matched by the songs of Richard Thomas (of Jerry Springer: The Opera notoriety).

Sara Perks’s set design is an open-plan lay-out of the freezing-cold 71 Coltman Street, where Bradwell (Kieran Knowles) and his fellow unemployed actors burn furniture to keep warm. Guitars, drums and a piano, sofas, cushions and theatre posters fill the room, where they improvise a play with no name, no plot, no budget and no bookings. Their phone is the nearest Hull white phone box.  

There are two forms of funding theatre, says Bradwell: Arts Council support or, in their case, social security, and Hull is the perfect place to be “looking for work” and setting up a theatre company because there are no jobs. Whereas, don’t sign on in Stratford-upon-Avon, he advises.

Played by Babych’s actor-musicians, in the pioneering company are Linda (Lauryn Redding), Bradwell’s girlfriend; up-for-anything Manchester lad Stew (Laurie Jamieson) and knows-everything-but-rather-charming, public school-educated Julian (Jordan Metcalfe). Enter Bea (Hanna Khogali), newly up from Oxford.

Bradwell encourages, nay, demands, that they take on the guise of potential characters for plays, when on the streets, for research purposes, be it Stew’s comedic Italian Dave, Julian’s vicar, Bea’s thief with a troubled past or Linda’s former hippie.

As if 71 Coltman Street were not already ripe with characters, Bean serves up two caricatures of chaotic comic delight: no-nonsense, leather-tongued landlady Mrs Snowball (Joanne Holden), who holds no truck with theatre luvvieness, and her equally blunt, not-all-there son, Our Seth (Adrian Hood), first encountered bringing a huge dead dog into the flat. Can two people scene-steal the same scenes? Oh, yes they can.

Another Hull Truck favourite, Matthew Booth, is more low key in his cameos, but you will particularly enjoy his Hell’s Angel, Daz, delivering frozen fish and a nonsensical story.

Bean’s celebrates the character of Hull itself, just as it drew Philip Larkin and John Godber to the coastal city, and he captures the world of making performances brilliantly too, not least in a scene that draws on Lee Strasberg’s workshop techniques.

71 Coltman Street is long and yet it flies by, constantly on the move, adding more characters, building momentum, passing social comment and showing all sides of Bradwell.

Bean spears all things 1971, from flares to a raucous, coarse Hull Truck cabaret night at the Hull & East Riding Institute for the Blind, audience bingo et al, before a climactic performance of debut play Naked turns into a sideshow for Mrs Snowball and Our Seth.

Thomas’s rough and ready songs add to the comic mayhem, and whatever is thrown at them by Bean, from agit-prop drama to cabaret, satirical comedy to Ortonesque farce, Babych’s cast are terrific, especially Knowles’s grouchy but resolute Bradwell and Metcalfe’s Julian, winding him up so unintentionally.

The Covid curse put paid to last week’s performances, but undaunted, in an echo of Bradwell’s pioneers, the bloody-minded Hull Truck spirit has prevailed.

REVIEW: Hull Truck Theatre in Romeo & Juliet, Stage@The Dock, Hull

Kissing by the dock: Laura Elsworthy’s Juliet and Jordan Metcalfe’s Romeo in Hull Truck Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet at Stage@The Dock, Hull

Hull Truck Theatre in Romeo & Juliet, Stage@The Dock, Hull, until August 7. Box office: hulltruck.co.uk.

CHATTING with an actor the other day, the question arose: how did you decide to play your Romeo?

“I’ve seen so many bad productions of Romeo & Juliet where I can’t wait for them to die, because they’re not very likeable!” he said. “I still truly believe that!

“I knew the approach I had to take was, I didn’t need the audience to fall in love with me, I just needed Juliet to fall in love with me. As soon as you worry about what the audience thinks of you, then Romeo is guaranteed to be unlikeable.”

Interesting, then, that Hull Truck Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet really do love each other. So much so, Hull-born duo Jordan Metcalfe and Laura Elsworthy are real-life husband and wife, marrying in the summer of 2018 after bonding when working on The Hypocrite in Hull’s year as UK City of Culture in 2017.

Thankfully, they have survived rather longer than Shakespeare’s tragic star-cross’d young lovers to tell the tale. Thankfully too, this is not an R&J where you “can’t wait for them to die, because they’re not very likeable”.

Strangely, however, the coupling does not have the same chemistry on stage as off. Chemistry should lead to biology, but Metcalfe’s wet-behind-the-ears Romeo comes over more as the fifth member of a boy band, one for the shadows, not a natural lead. Crucially, kissing by the dock, the sparks do not fly with Elsworthy’s Juliet and nor do the sudden flare-ups of fury that lead to murder carry conviction.

Elsworthy is better by far: more assured in her restless performance, spoilt, temperamental, teenage to the max, not averse to blunt northern humour, and she makes Shakespeare’s language catch fire with her Hull vowels. Pre-notoriety Amy Winehouse to his Summer Holiday Cliff Richard, at a stretch.

Sitting on the dock: The audience watching Mark Babych’s cast members in Hull Truck Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet

Hull Truck artistic director Mark Babych’s two hours’ traffic on the R&J stage is not unlikeable but nor is it is loveable, either.

In the rudimentary amphitheatre of Hull’s converted former dry dock, he sets up a traverse stage to emphasise the antipathy between the warring Capulets and Montagues, with a tent at either end for props and instruments.

Those costume designs, by Sian Thomas, are a star turn on the otherwise bare wooden stage: a catwalk for 1950s’ Italian and American college fashion that inevitably echo West Side Story, Bernstein and Sondheim’s American spin on R&J.

One American voice pops over the Atlantic in the dapper form of Reno-born, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama-trained Richard McIver’s hat-tilting Mercutio, every inch the scene stealer he should be. (Back in 1977, in an English Literature class, your reviewer was told Shakespeare killed off Mercutio prematurely because he was pinching the play from an under-par Romeo!).

McIver’s Guys And Dolls panache is typical of the knowing, bite-your-thumb irreverence that permeates Babych’s interpretation, where all manner of accents and acting styles prevail.

Multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Goode’s Prince Escalus and Friar John could have popped out of a Kneehigh Theatre show; Laurie Jamieson’s double bill of fiery Tybalt and fixer Friar Lawrence would suit a Shane Meadows film or Shameless; EM Williams’s bleached Benvolio is part Puck, part punk.

Lady and Lord Capulet fuse into Carolyn Backhouse’s Capulet, a Cruella de Vil figure, while Amanda Gordon’s Nurse is suitably irritating, irrational, contradictory yet kind all at once.

Babych has fun with a colourful, impassioned Romeo And Juliet, rather than finding the aching poetry and doomed love at this time of a plague on all our houses. Playing broader strokes is a gamble, one that leads to less rather than “more woe”, but the get-up-and-go suits the setting, distracting from regrets over not bringing cushions to soften the seating.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Hull Truck pantomime Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker goes online for free

The invitation to Hull Truck Theatre’s streamed pantomime, Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker

HULL Truck Theatre’s Christmas show, Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker, will be streamed for free on YouTube from 7pm tonight (22/12/2020).

Written and directed by artistic director by Mark Babych, the virtual show will be available to watch on-demand until January 3.

“Christmas is a time of year when fairy-tale heroes and villains are a firm feature in the plays and pantos that so many of us love to experience as part of the festive calendar,” says Mark.

“Covid-19 is certainly this year’s villain but this year we have so many heroes to thank. We’re delighted the show can be enjoyed by audiences across the region and that we can continue to support artists and freelancers in what’s been an incredibly difficult year for the industry.” 

After Hull’s Tier 3 status under the Government’s pandemic strictures put paid to performances at the Ferensway theatre, a partnership between Hull Truck, Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council is bringing the Christmas show for free to Hull and East Yorkshire residents, schools, care homes and community groups.

From invitations sent with Christmas Day food parcels to online workshops and resource packs for schools, the innovative partnership aims to maximise the reach and impact of theatre while spreading festive joy.  

Every Hull and East Yorkshire household is invited to join Prince Charming from the comfort of home from this evening as he throws open the palace gates for his annual Christmas ball in Hull Truck’s festive fairytale adventure sprinkled with surprises, sparkle and a hint of magic. 

Online audiences for this uplifting shared theatrical experience are promised festive music, karaoke, unexpected guests and lashings of humour in “a ‘do’ like never before, with what is hoped to bring a dose of excitement and happiness at the end of this challenging year”. 

Here to entertain you…remotely: Director Mark Babych, front, and his Hull Truck Theatre cast for Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker, Joanna Holden, left, Louise Willoughy, Laurie Jamieson, Rachel Dale and Amelia Donkor. Picture: Karl Andre Photography

Rehearsals under Babych’s direction were on the cusp of starting when the country went into Lockdown 2. Given the continued restrictions, uncertainty and acknowledgement of the impact art and culture has on wellbeing, Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council stepped in, not only to ensure the show could go on, but also could be enjoyed by households across the region and beyond, “connecting families even if they’re not watching from the same sofa”. 

Janthi Mills-Ward, Hull Truck’s executive director, says: “This is the first time we’ve worked together with our two local councils to fund something like this, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer residents a magical Christmas experience. 

“Engaging in arts and culture has been found to be associated with increased wellbeing and we can’t thank East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Hull City Council enough for their support.

“We hope this innovative collaboration brings a little joy and happiness to residents, schools and care homes, with a shared experience for families and friends to enjoy together, whether as seasoned or first-time theatre-goers.” 

Councillor Stephen Brady, leader of Hull City Council, says: “It’s been a tremendously difficult year for all of us. Christmas is a special time, but sadly this year certain Christmas traditions cannot be celebrated in the usual ways.

“Going to the theatre, whether it be to see a pantomime or a retelling of one of our favourite Christmas tales, is, for many people, one of the highlights of the festive period. 

“Credit to Hull Truck for ensuring families and residents can still enjoy and experience the fun of the theatre this Christmas. Hull City Council is delighted to be able to support the performance and we wish all residents a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.” 

Councillor Richard Burton, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, says: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to contribute to this exciting project, which we see as vital in engaging with all our local audiences in these challenging times. 

Council meeting: Local authority leaders, theatre directors and the pantomime cast gather outside Hull Truck Theatre: from left, Janthi Mills-Ward, Laurie Jamieson, Councillor Stephen Brady, Joanna Holden, Louise Willoughby, Rachel Dale, Councillor Richard Burton, Amelia Donkor and Mark Babych. Picture: Karl Andre

“Whether residents at home, schools, or residents in care homes, we all need the uplift that the performing arts can bring, and the connections it can make between us all. I’m really looking forward to seeing what promises to be a real cracker of a show.” 

As an interactive experience, with behind-the-scenes footage and backstage views, the streamed performance will be different to watching a film or show on TV.

Janthi says: “The streaming has been created to encapsulate those magical moments of a theatrical experience, as opposed to a film or television programme. The production will give people the opportunity to enjoy the show together, even if they’re watching in different homes.

“Whether you want to get dressed up and recreate the theatre experience at home, create a den or stay cosy on the sofa, we hope the live streaming offers a festive experience for the whole family to enjoy. 

“Theatre is a cornerstone at Christmas, so, alongside this exciting project, we’ve been working in partnership with KCOM to release four short family Christmas films in the run-up to Christmas that are set across Hull and East Riding as we continue to connect friends, families and communities through the magic of storytelling.”

Should you be unable to attend Prince Charming’s virtual ball this evening, worry not. The performance will be available for residents and care homes to watch from tomorrow (23/12/2020) to January 3, while schools and community groups will have access for the weeks beginning January 4 and January 11 2021, complemented by the accompanying resource pack.

Tickets are not required. Instead, the YouTube link will be made available on Hull Truck’s website, hulltruck.co.uk/Christmas-stream, and social media channels.

Ticket holders for the cancelled live performances at Hull Truck have been contacted to discuss options.

John Godber keeps it in the family for Sunny Side Up’s journey to the Yorkshire coast

Family bubble for Sunny Side Up!: John Godber with his wife Jane Thornton and daughters Martha and Elizabeth

“BUMPING” into Britain’s second most performed living playwright as paths crossed while stretching a lockdown leg at Pocklington Canal Head in early July, one question had to be asked.

“Must be plenty of material for a play about Covid-19, John?”. “No comedy there,” replied John Godber.

Nevertheless, the waiting for Godber’s new play is over. Presented by the John Godber Company and Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, the humorous and moving Sunny Side Up! will open in The Round at the SJT tonight (October 28).

Depicting a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it, the world premiere of the former Hull Truck artistic director’s holiday drama will be a family affair, starring the Godber lockdown bubble of writer-director John, wife Jane Thornton and daughter Martha. Elder daughter Elizabeth – who has just enrolled for a PhD at Hull University, studying the poetry of Emily Dickinson, by the way – is participating too as the company stage manager.

“What a strange time it’s been,” says John. “Shortly after I saw you at Pocklington Canal Head, I got a phone-call from Paul Robinson [the SJT artistic director] saying, ‘We want to open in October; I know you’re in a social bubble with Jane, Liz and Martha; would you like to do a new play together this autumn?

“It was like winning the Oscar, to have the opportunity to do your trade again – we’ve not received any Arts Council funding – and just to be clear, we could only do it in these circumstances as a family bubble.”

Reflecting on life in lockdown and beyond in Covid-19 2020, John says: “If we are following the science, which science is it? Watching all the news coverage on TV ends up making you feel ill,” says John.

Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director Paul Robinson: Invited John Godber to write a play for the autumn season. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

“We live in a significant property with a lot of space but we’re still going mad, climbing up the walls. What’s it like for those living in a cramped apartment with no garden in lockdown? It must be like [Jean-Paul] Sartre. Do politicians understand that?”

John, the son of an Upton miner, has “always voted Labour for lots of reasons”. “We know Covid has been a challenge, but the Government can find all this money for Test and Trace and to pay nine million people’s wages in furlough, yet what an own goal to refuse to support free meals for schoolchildren in the holidays,” he says.

Sunny Side Up! is not a political comment on Covid times, but more so on how we have reacted to lockdown. “When Paul asked me to write a play, we’d been doing lots of family walks, going to the coast, walking on bridal paths, by canals,” says John.

“I thought there might be something in thinking about what our seaside towns might look like to people going there for the first time or going back after a long time.

“You have to take Scarborough and Filey out of the equation, but I wondered what the function of our seaside towns and villages is. I think they remind us of where we’ve come from, in terms of families enjoying simpler times.”

Fraisthorpe Beach, four miles south of Bridlington, has been one such coastal haven for John. “Have you been there? Mile after mile after mile of unbroken sand, which is just amazing,” he says.

“We’ve started to look at places locally through Covid eyes. I’m certainly looking at simplicity in our lives now. In the early part of lockdown, going on walks from the house, you’d look at a field for the first time that we must have walked past for 30 years and you suddenly think how beautiful it is.

The poster for John Godber’s new play Sunny Side Up!

“Or through walking along the Pocklington Canal, you start looking at the Industrial Revolution and the growth of Pocklington at that time.”

Summing up his philosophy brought on by Covid restrictions, John says: “It’s not about regression; it’s about simplicity.”

This set him on the path of writing Sunny Side Up!, wherein struggling Yorkshire coast B&B proprietors Barney, Tina and daughter Cath share their stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy in a “seaside rollercoaster that digs into what our ‘staycations’ are all about”.

“This is not a play about Covid, though it has references. It’s more about social mobility,” says John.

“Sunny Side is a fictitious East Coast Yorkshire resort that is so small, you wouldn’t find it on the map, where B&B owner Barney is very much a Brexiteer, a little Englander.

“Graham, a retired university pro-vice chancellor who’s done very nicely through education is invited there by his sister, Tina, and coming up 70 he’s going back to where he came from – a very ordinary background – but he’s never gone back since…until now.

“He sees it’s a place where they have turned the oxygen off. No jobs; no trains; two buses to get there; the nearest dual carriageway 15 miles away.

“But these are fantastic places, almost mythical, where the colouring and the sweep are incredible, so it’s a play about this guy coming to terms with ‘why haven’t I been back here, because it’s amazing?’. He realises his separation from his small-town roots doesn’t match with his reading of the world.”

On a bicycle made for two views: John Godber and Jane Thornton’s clashing cyclists in The Scary Bikers, Godber’s 2019 play about Brexit, bikes and bereavement.. Picture: Anthony Robling

A fast-moving one-act play, 64 minutes straight through, Sunny Side Up! is a “funny, fish-out-of-water story, but it has pathos and there’s magic realism too”, says John. “It’s not rubbing anyone’s nose in it, but those who get it will know what it’s about.

“You can go anywhere in the country and see places that are suffering, places that have been left behind, places that need water…but many of us wouldn’t spot a real person if we passed them in the street, like Graham wouldn’t.

“But here he’s confronted by people he thinks he’s been addressing [in his academic work], only to find he’s not been able to change that world. Just as the Westminster bubble dilutes the politicians from the reality.

“But having said that, this play is also a very humane, very touching, very funny story of a relationship between a brother and a sister.”

Against the backdrop of Covid-19 and renewed talk of a widening North-South divide, John says: “I think we are becoming divisive. There’s a line in the play that says, ‘we have to start again’. We’ve reached that point where we do have to re-start. I’m 64 now and you would have thought this would have been sorted out when we were younger men. Has it ossified, with social mobility no longer being a thing, but why?”

Rehearsed at home, Sunny Side Up! is the second John Godber work in lockdown. “The first one was in May, when I decided to write a 15-part radio drama for BBC Radio Humberside called Essentials, about a family needing to talk to each other,” says John.

“We recorded it in Liz’s walk-in wardrobe, with Martha’s boyfriend, Henry, doing the technical stuff, and we were all in each eight-minute episode.

“It was like The Archers, set around the family breakfast, with the father being a delivery driver for Tesco, delivering essentials.”

“It had a lot of politics in the early version, with them all saying ‘I think you’ll have a legal problem with that,” says John Godber of the writing process for Sunny Side Up!

When the invitation came to write a play for the SJT, John initially saw it as a chance to “draw anything on the canvas” in the prevailing Covid circumstances. “It had a lot of politics in the early version, with them all saying ‘I think you’ll have a legal problem with that’, and I decided, ‘I don’t think people want to sit there in a mask with me ranting about Boris Johnson.”

Under social-distancing measures, the audience capacity is heavily reduced: a new experience for Godber. “It’s fascinating because I’ve had a career of trying to fill theatres, but now you don’t have to ‘fill’ theatres,” says John, whose seven SJT performances have sold out.

“So it’s a bit like the early stuff: Happy Jack, September In The Rain, which I was going back to with The Scary Bikers last year. It’s that meta thing: taking in politics, self-analysis, class, all neatly told with four chairs and a suitcase.”

Those four chairs and a suitcase will next travel to Hull, after Hull Truck artistic director Mark Babych asked Godber to bring Sunny Side Up! to his former stomping ground. “It’s like Back To The Future; all the props in a suitcase and all our stuff in the back of my car,” says John.

As for working in a family bubble: “Martha’s all over me like a rash about the play! She and Liz don’t let me get away with anything. I can take it from Jane, but now it’s from my  kids too!”

John Godber Company in Sunny Side Up!, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, October 28 to 31: 7.30pm, Wednesday; 1.30pm, 7.30pm, Thursday and Friday; 2.30pm, 7.30pm, Saturday. All sold out. Hull Truck Theatre, November 17 to 22: 7.30pm, Tuesday; 2pm and 7.30pm, Wednesday; 7.30pm, Thursday and Friday; 2pm, 7.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01482 323638 or at hulltruck.co.uk/whats-on/drama/sunny-side-up/

Keep on Trucking as Hull theatre sets up activities aplenty for playing at home

Hull Truck Theatre: building closed, but the theatre invites you to be creative at home

CREATIVITY cannot be closed down, says Hull Truck Theatre, as it launches an At Home community hub from April 6.

Over the coming weeks, Hull Truck will run a programme of drama and creative activities to keep audiences and communities entertained and inspired during the Coronavirus lockdown.

This will involve a stream of “engaging and accessible content”, ranging from A Play A Day and Writing Workouts to 3 Minute Theatre, Educational Resource Packs and Screening past shows, all to be found on the new page hulltruck.co.uk/hull-truck-at-home/.  

The theatre’s statement says: “Hull Truck Theatre are passionate about the positive and transformative power of theatre and believe that having the opportunity to take part in creative activities is good for everyone’s wellbeing, outlook and self-esteem. 

“The team have prepared activities to help with home schooling; opportunities for all ages to learn and develop writing skills, and we’ll be streaming some of our past shows to be enjoyed from the comfort of your sofa. 

“Hull Truck Theatre hope that taking part in them will help participants to feel creative, connected and part of our online community hub.”  

Matthew Wilson and Nicola Stephenson in Jim Cartwright’s Two at Hull Truck Theatre

Here is a guide to the Hull Truck Theatre At Home programme:

 A Play A Day: Play-reading activity for all ages 

EVERY weekday from April 6 to 24 at 10am, a short play will be released, written by local playwrights. The plays were commissioned by Hull Truck for various projects over recent years; the theatre is delighted to share these with a wider audience now.  

Participants can read these plays on their own, out loud with the people in their household or with friends by phone or a video-conferencing platform. Each play will come with notes to help the reader, so, even if they have never read a play before, they can enjoy it as much as a theatre professional.  

First up will be Lydia Marchant’s 2009, written as part of a youth theatre project, Ten, and performed in March 2019 by 55 members of Hull Truck Theatre’s Young Company.

Ten celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Hull Truck moving to Ferensway and featured ten ten-minute plays, each based on a year in the decade 2009 to 2019.

The next four plays lined up were part of Ten too:  Ellen Brammar’s KidnappingNick; Lydia Marchant’s 2011; Josh Overton’s 2012 and Marchant’s 2013.

Writing Workout with Tom Saunders: Daily tasks for writers of all ages and abilities 

NEW writing is a core part of Hull Truck’s artistic programme, the theatre working with writers at any stage of their career and regularly staging or presenting world premieres, new adaptations and cutting-edge new writing from around the country.   

From April 6, associate director Tom Saunders will post a daily blog with a writing activity for people to complete at home. Writers of any age will be encouraged to complete the task, and, if they wish, can share footage of themselves reading their work on social media. 

“Even though our doors may be closed, we hope to continue inspiring people to enjoy the arts from their own home,” says Hull Truck Theatre artistic director Mark Babych

3 Minute Theatre

FOR those still needing their “fix of great theatre”, Hull Truck Theatre is asking some of its associate artists to record a short monologue from a play of their choice, to be shared across Hull Truck’s online channels.

Nicola Stephenson, from the cast of Jim Cartwright’s Two, Hull Truck’s 2020 co-production with Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, and writer-performer Hester Ullyart have shared their monologues already.

These can be found on the hulltruck.co.uk/hull-truck-at-home/page or the Hull Truck YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/HTTheatre.  

Education Resource Packs

HULL Truck has made all its Education Resource Packs from past productions available for downloading online for use by teachers and home-schooling families.

For packs from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Treasure Island, Oliver Twist, Peter Pan and Two, go to: hulltruck.co.uk/hull-truck-at-home/education-resource-packs/.

These packs include plot synopsis, character breakdown, information about authors and classroom activities to inspire teachers or home-schooling families.  

Hester Ulyart in Paragon Dreams at Hull Truck Theatre in April 2019. Picture: Sam Taylor

Screening past productions

HULL Truck is digging through its archives and is excited to share recordings of favourite shows over the years. 

First up will be a screening of Paragon Dreams from 2019, written and performed by Hull artist Hester Ullyart, directed by artistic director Mark Babych.

This tense thriller about a woman returning to Hull to face the ghosts of her past will be streamed on YouTube on Wednesday, April 8 at 7pm.  Watch Hull Truck Theatre’s social media channels via @hulltruck for the viewing link.

To engage on social media with these activities, tag @hulltruck for all platforms and use the relevant hashtags: #PlayADay, #WritingDaily, #3MinuteTheatre, #HTTEducation and #HTTStream.

Launching Hull Truck Theatre At Home, Mark Babych says: “In this time of uncertainty, it’s easy to feel alone. As a theatre family we are stronger together, with Hull Truck Theatre At Home we are hoping to reach out to our local communities – while still complying with Social Distancing.

“Even though our doors may be closed, we hope to continue inspiring people to enjoy the arts from their own home while also connecting with each other. Whether people are hosting their own online viewing parties or using video calls to go through the exercises together, we hope to start a conversation and help us all feel a lot better in these times. Stay well, stay safe and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.”