Friday, June 18

The Greatest Play In The History Of The World … – Hull Truck Theatre

Hallelujah! Theatres are open again and I had a front row seat at Hull Truck Theatre. Best of all, because of social distancing, I was the only occupant on that row.

However, the “front row” in question was my sofa; yes, I was watching online.

Julie Hesmondhalgh, she of Coronation Street fame, was the only human on the stage – a stage she shared with numerous pairs of shoes held in cardboard boxes on two large metal frames.

This very plain setting, though at times a bit too unlit for my liking, was welcome as it didn’t detract from Hesmondhalgh’s amazing performance, in this first of a trilogy of monologues at the theatre in the near future.

Dressed casually, Hesmondhalgh (who happens to be writer Ian Kershaw’s wife) recounts, in a loud, clear and, for want of a better word, meaningful, voice, the antics of several Preston Road residents.

This production is part of a nationwide show, so I assume the street name in question changes as the show moves around the country.

Hesmondhalgh’s face is so well-known, but I didn’t once associate her with the famous actress, as she very cleverly became simply a storyteller on the night. And what a storyteller; she positively glowed on stage, even amusingly interacting with audience members at times.

The aforementioned pairs of shoes brought life to 31-year-old Tom, at No. 28 Preston Road; Sara, aged 26, at number 27; Mr and Mrs Forshaw at number 30 and the “unruly kids” at number 58. Plus, a dastardly Derek (Tom’s former friend) and Tom’s cheating ex, Sarah.

The show opens with the crackling radio sounds, and we are told of two probes sent into space in 1977, each containing a “golden phonograph record” of life on our planet.

I was slightly perplexed by this information, but the reason becomes clear as the night wears on.

Hesmondhalgh kicks off with vivid and amusing descriptions of Tom unable to sleep at 4.40am. At number 27, Sara is also unable to sleep. We are then told of the lives of the elderly Forshaws at number 30. He is 81 and she is a tattooed, terminally-ill 76-year-old (her tattoo becomes very meaningful later on, as does why they have spent seven years building something in their garden shed).

The Forshaws run the local Neighbourhood Watch, and Tom and Sara regularly receive their emails.

Strangely, the clocks in all three households remain at 4.40am – time has stood still.

Bored, Tom decides to write his first play, entitled The Greatest Play In The History Of The World. On his computer, he types in the name of his play’s star, his ex, Sarah, then deletes the “h’ – his heroine would be a Sara.

It is still 4.40am and both Tom and Sara receive an email from their local Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator – Mrs Forshaw.

Worryingly, the message says HELP!

Both rush round to their elderly neighbours’ house and that’s when everything Hesmondhalgh has been telling us all night, becomes crystal clear. And my heart melted. An unearthly tale brought to life by an out-of-this-world performer.

Running until Saturday, June 12th, 2021, 7.30pm nightly with 2pm matinees on Wednesday, June 9th and Saturday, June 12th.

Tickets cost from £21.50. Visit www.hulltruck.co.uk or call (01482) 323638. *Suitable for over-12s.

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 7th June 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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