Theatre in Hull; A Lifelong Passion
By Michelle Dee
I started going to Hull Truck Theatre in its Spring Street days. I had a very switched on drama tutor at high school and saw
gritty Remould Theatre productions such as Steeltown, In Blackberry Times, Streetbeat and more.
As a young adult I remember seeing dance productions such as Orpheus in the Underworld and then Woza Albert by a Zimbabwean
company, as well as a host of John Godber shows, Wuthering Heights, Up n Under etc.
Under the Whalebone explored a particular
aspect of local maritime history, that I would come to revisit again in later years.
I recall going to see productions because my friends were in the cast: youth theatre and amateur companies; young and old treading the boards
working together to delight and enthrall audiences.
Now almost twenty five years later I am writing about theatre, producing reviews for local Arts and Culture online magazine sites.
I remember the struggle I had with the homework assignment reviewing that first play (don't rewrite the story, don't just rewrite the story...)
I have seen at first hand Spoken Word and performance poetry grow in popularity and find a welcome home at both Hull Truck and Fruit.
I have watched poets and performers on those two Hull stages that I'd never have come across unless I'd had the chance to see them live.
Writers like the recent Ted Hughes Award winner, Kate Tempest and the Radio 4 favourite, Kate Fox along with more experimental voice
artists such as Hanna Silva or the earthy verse of Helen Mort.
I've even dabbled and tortured audiences with my own erratic nervy
delivery (bits of doggerel on crumpled sheets of A4) on the Studio stage and at Fruit, when taking part in theatre-based spoken
word events with the Write to Speak program.
Fruit, an all purpose venue in Hull's historic Fruitmarket, concerns itself very much with new works and 'scratch' shows.
There, the bespoke space and the location has and will continue to inspire the essential new ways of thinking, breaking free from
the confines of the stage. Slung Low Theatre Company did just that with the inspiring Mapping the City where the streets of Hull,
its abandoned warehouses, actual moving ride-on buses and even the Humber Estuary, all became the stage and so perhaps there is
also something to be learned there.
Maybe what is needed is not a building-centred approach, but a critical approach to the quality of the work. Does it do something new? Is it exciting,
does it get my pulse racing? Would I drag my reluctant non-theatre going friend kicking and screaming to see it?
Will I go on talking about it for days and weeks after the curtain call? And will I still remember it twenty-five years down the line?
A theatre is nothing without the theatre-makers; the office staff, the writers, the decision makers; people who work behind the scenes at all levels.
Those people at the heart of the theatre need a sense of security, the chance to develop into their roles and not constantly fear they will be
replaced when new management is brought in. Theatre itself must work, and be seen to work in a more transparent way; be open to new ideas, new
possibilities and people; to be more supportive, to judge only on merit and to value the skills and talents each bring to the table.
I love the theatre and as long both these venues continue to program daring, innovative, experimental work alongside the more standard repertoire, as long as they find a balance between the populist and the specialist, and keep challenging audiences and companies, to rethink theatre as a concept then they may have a chance. I truly hope so.
I can tell you now that I didn't have to Google any of those play titles, they have individually left an indelible mark on me and continue to fuel my passion for theatre and the arts.
When I was in my early teens I went to my grandparents in Gypsyville to do any shopping for them.
I remember going to the cinema in Gypsyville but cannot remember the name of it.
It was just a few yards from the corner of North Road towards Dairycoates.
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