Listening to the pre-show chatter of the Hull Truck Theatre audience, awaiting the start of the world premiere of Hull & High Water, made me realise just how much I have missed the live theatre atmosphere.
I watched this, the third of the theatre’s socially distanced Homecomings Season monologues, online but, no doubt, I’ll be back in that cosy theatre before too long.
As in the first two monologues (The Greatest Play In The History Of The World and Everything I Own), the stage setting was a tad too dark for my liking. Dim lighting and dark furniture added to the gloom.
Luckily, Emmerdale actor John Middleton lit up the stage the minute he set foot on it.
I warmed to him immediately. Although his character, Frank Piddock, is getting on in years, suffering from dementia and in a care home, Middleton’s friendly, open face made him appear younger. And I laughed out loud at every one of his jokes (I’ll reveal my favourite one later).
Dressed casually in slacks and a red and gold waistcoat, Frank started off by complaining of the “hotel” he was living in, but he soon forgot his grumbles by launching into the first of many jokes on the night.
Ex-teacher, ex-Hull Kingston Rovers rugby player (just like my dad!), and father of two, Frank escapes the care home and takes us on a trip down his Memory Lane – via bus, taxi and a car ride from a kind lady in Hull’s Minerva pub.
I’m Hull born and bred so everywhere he went was familiar to me. Writer, Janet Plater, also Hull-born, provided the “in” jokes that have amused us Hull folk for years. Quips about Kirkella and Dunswell got the biggest laughs – and I knew exactly why.
However, I’m not sure Hull & High Water would provide the same level of amusement to those unfamiliar to the area and its history.
Frank remembers first meeting his wife, Sylvie, at Bricknell School. He loved her so much and it was heart-wrenching to hear of her love affair that later destroyed their marriage. We learn of Frank and Sylvie’s two children – Eliza and Daniel – and that Sylvie now lives in Cottingham (ooh, get her!) on Hull’s outskirts.
As Daniel lives in New York, it’s up to Eliza to pick up her dad in her Renault Clio and drive him back to the care home, after he is found wandering by Humberside Police.
But before Frank is “recaptured”, we join him on a visit to his parents’ house in Melrose Street; Walton Street, home to the famous Hull Fair, and to Sylvie’s house.
In between his jokes, Frank recounts, without any hint of self-pity, how, when Sylvie took him to Hull Pier to confess her infidelity, he threw himself into the mud of the River Humber, in a failed bid to end it all.
Middleton portrayed this forgetful pensioner in such a way that it wasn’t at all depressing. His performance would give any stand-up comedian a run for their money.
And my favourite joke I mentioned above? A cement lorry collided with a police van on Hessle Road – the police are now looking for five hardened criminals.
Probably as old as the hills, but I’ll giggle at that one for ever. Thanks Frank!
Running until Saturday, July 10th; 7.30pm nightly with 2pm matinees on Wednesday, 7th and Saturday, 10th. Tickets from £13.50. On Demand, Saturday, July 3rd to Saturday, July 10th. To book and for more information, call (01482) 323638 or visit www.hulltruck.co.uk
Recommended for age 12+
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 2nd July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★