The early ‘hot ticket’ in Hull’s 2017 City of Culture year, Richard Bean’s bawdy, filthy, sex farce cum history lesson has sold out its run on Ferensway and much is being made that over a third of those ticket purchasers have never visited Hull Truck before. So it was nice to bag a pair of comps for World Premiere night and join the capacity crowd to experience the first production, a co-pro with the RSC no less, in Truck’s exceptional year of drama. It’s been a while since there’s been such an anticipatory buzz in this particular auditorium; people came for something special and were up for a good night out.
Bean takes the farcical events of 1642-43, when King Charles I was refused entry to Hull, thus sparking the English Civil War, and cleverly crunches 14 months into three days, crams the stage with characters, flexes his word play muscles, gets everyone running around the building, drops people into the coal cellar regularly and revels in the Hullness of the story, while also throwing in Pythonesque coconut shells as horses, getting away with an extraordinary level of sexism and revisiting some of his old gags. Someone somewhere will be saying it’s a ‘proper Hull Truck show’ and will be trying to work out why they laughed so hard at the mere mention of North Ferriby. Just like the old days.
Bean moves beyond the pub version of the events covered, his hands no doubt having been inserted into white gloves to handle old documents, and amid all the silliness and smut and gags there’s quite a lot that can be learned from this account, although it certainly doesn’t purport to be a documentary.
The play starts with the epilogue, fitting for the world turned upside down depicted and, when things get going after the beheading of Sir John Hotham and the play’s conventions are made clear, The Hypocrite is a breathless affair for, gulp, pretty much all of its almost three hours, with the cast of 20 worked hard by Bean and directer Phillip Breen. The contemporary political resonances are there, as you’d expect from this writer, although mostly in the songs peppered throughout.
Good to see so many actors connected with Truck and Hull in the cast, and again people will feel, in some respects, like they’re pulling on a pair of old socks at the sight of Martin Barrass, Paul Popplewell, Matt Sutton and Adrian Hood, delight at the long-overdue (but he’s been busy) return of Mark Addy and be chuffed, as I was, to see the brilliant Laura Elsworthy and Rachel Dale on this stage.
The Hypocrite is a good night out. It’s very funny. It’s very Beany. It feels very ‘big’. It’s most definitely a sex farce, but one that is self-reflexive and meta enough to get away with some crazy anachronisms and direct audience address.
Looking forward to designer Max Jones’ filthy, big cock-filled Inigo Jones’ bed going on ebay at some point in the future. It would look nice in a flat on the Thornton Estate.