Shall I tell you the first thing that came to mind when I laid eyes on actor Gabriel Paul, on the Hull Truck Theatre stage this week?
Mmm … very attractive man, muscly in all the right places, glint in his eye – obviously good fun to be around (but the vest has to go).
Oh, and he is black – this last piece of info, as an afterthought.
However, as this second in a trilogy of monologues at the theatre – a world premiere, no less – wore on, I realised my reaction was far from the norm experienced by Errol (Paul), in his lifetime.
The central character never appears – but his presence is felt throughout. He is Errol’s dad, who has died of Covid, leaving Errol, one of his seven children, to sort out his belongings.
The action takes place in Errol’s dad’s sitting room – a cosy affair full of knick-knacks and a lifetime of memories.
Seated on his dad’s familiar armchair, Errol, relishing a cup of Yorkshire tea, and in his loud and clear northern twang, reminisces about his life since arriving in Hull at the age of eight.
In Jamaica, he was just a happy-go-lucky boy but, under the grim skies of this northern “outpost” he stood out – because of his skin colour.
His late father had grafted so hard to give his growing family a new start, and it was his love of music that had helped him through. Reggae, ska and “lovers’ rock” were constantly playing in the childhood home.
Decades later, it was Errol who had helped his dad create a Spotify playlist of his fave songs – and his dad had sat for five hours compiling the list from memory.
It’s against this musical backdrop that the award-winning script takes us deeper and deeper into Errol’s recollections of the racism he has endured while growing up.
Paul, as Errol, is so natural in his actions – casually sorting through his dad’s stuff while chatting non-stop to his audience – that it was as if he was telling us about his own life. I honestly forgot he was an actor who has learned his lines.
Of course, nowadays, mention racism and the Black Lives Matter movement comes to mind. Errol reveals that his son is heavily involved in the movement, but writer Daniel Ward’s script cleverly doesn’t pass judgement on the son or enter the political arena in any way.
As the one-man show progressed, I really warmed to Errol, feeling so sad that, among other things, his schooldays were marred by his classmates’ unfeeling reactions to the type of TV programmes that wouldn’t be allowed on our screens today.
Sad, too, that a walk home from the pub with his wife, would end up in him having to run for his life from a group of thugs hell-bent on doing him harm, solely because of the colour of his skin.
But Everything I Own is far from gloomy. It’s thought-provoking for sure; educational too and, yes, anger-making at times. However, we are left with the joyful sight of Errol dancing around the room whilst enjoying a glass of rum from his dad’s “special bottle”.
And, as he answers the doorbell to find his own son standing there, we rejoice in the fact that, at that moment in time, all’s well in his world.
Written by Daniel Ward, directed by Amanda Huxtable and performed by Gabriel Paul.
Running until Saturday, June 26th, 2021; 7.30pm nightly with 2pm matinees on Wednesday 23rd and Saturday 26th. Tickets cost from £13.50. Live streaming on demand from Saturday, June 19th to Saturday, June 26th. https://www.hulltruck.co.uk/whats-on/drama/everything-i-own/
Recommended age 14+
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 18th June 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★