Friday, July 1

71 Coltman Street – Hull Truck Theatre

As a theatregoer, when you’re handed a complementary tub of chip spice along with your tickets, it does pique your interest.

The chip spice came courtesy of Hull Truck Theatre, whose world premiere production of 71 Coltman Street brought to life this local theatre’s creation, 50 years ago.

This week I have almost made myself ill by laughing so much at a Hull theatre production, but on Wednesday evening, at this intimate city centre venue, my chuckle muscles took a real battering.

The play centres around Hull Truck founder, Mike Bradwell, who at 23, arrived in our city in 1971, renting the run-down house of the production’s title, setting up the theatre from there the following year.

Written by Richard Bean, Bradwell admits not a word in the script is true, but that made not a jot of difference to a packed theatre on the night, who believed, nay relished, every expletive-ridden word.

Linda (Lauryn Redding) and Stew (Laurie Jamieson) kick off proceedings, dressed as drug-ridden hippies. They soon become frisky and from my front-row vantage point, Stew’s bare bottom took on a pearlescent sheen under the stage lights.

In bursts their no-nonsense landlady, Mrs Snowball (Joanna Holden, undoubtedly the star of the show) and it’s up to Linda’s boyfriend, the aforementioned Mike Bradwell (Kieran Knowles) to explain to her that the couple were only acting out a scene from a forthcoming production.

Mrs Snowball was accompanied by her son, “our Seth” (Adrian Hood), a giant of a man who arrived carrying his huge dead dog and a spade with which to bury it in the garden of 71 Coltman Street.

By this time, fellow wannabe actor Julian (Jordan Metcalfe) was on the scene. An irritating nelly-know-all, he spoke with a posh voice and quickly became my favourite character.

A young woman called Bea (Hanna Khogali), a fellow rentee, was welcomed into the wannabe’s pack because she could play the piano.

Other characters were played by Matthew Booth, Jack Chamberlain and Annie Kirkman, and Booth’s portrayal of a frozen-fish bearing, Hull-accented, leather-clad, motorbike gang member was a scream.

It’s impossible for me to explain what this bunch got up to, scene by scene because, at three hours long, so much happened.

The main stage setting focused on the drab living room of the rented house – one huge Dralon-covered armchair, a past-its-best bean bag, makeshift coffee table etc etc, but later on we were treated to a sparkly scene of the group’s first “cabaret” show, at the Hull & East Riding Institute for the Blind’s premises in the city.

This was where I thought I was going to die laughing. Seriously. Julian headed to the mic and sang the 1949 Frankie Laine hit, Mule Train. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen on or off a stage. Add to this, Bradwell, wearing a fez and singing Que Sera in an exaggerated Yorkshire voice – well, it was just too much! I felt like begging them to stop.

Serious moments did occur, but they were few and far between.

This show had everything – good acting, a very funny script, singing, playing of musical instruments, audience participation, slapstick, violence, foul language, bingo and, this being Hull, a cream-coloured public telephone box.

The fact that no chips were offered with the chip spice didn’t spoil my night. This was the funniest three hours of my life.

Running until Saturday, March 12th, 2022. Tickets from £10. Call (01482) 323638 or visit www.hulltruck.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 9th March 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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