Friday, December 2

Ladies Unleashed – Hull Truck Theatre

It might have been a rainy night in Hull on Tuesday, but there was a very warm welcome awaiting Hull Truck theatregoers who had ventured out to see Amanda Whittington’s Ladies Unleashed.

No sooner had my theatre buddy sister, Chrissy, and I found seats in the foyer, a friendly “waitress” held the most scrumptious looking food under our noses for us to sample – free of charge.

The garlic chips, chicken wings with dip, prawns etc were all from the new menu of Shoot The Bull, the popular eaterie within the theatre, and every mouthful was delicious.

What a fantastic start to theatrical proceedings. But did the night continue in that vein? Well, the jury is still out on that one.

The atmospheric stage setting was static, apart from a useful giant film screen at the rear, which mainly showed starry or wintry skies, and a graveyard at one time.

The drab-coloured “jetty”, “stones” and “sand” of the harbour cleverly hinted at the bleakness of Lindisfarne, the island upon which the action takes place.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, is where bride-to-be, Linda, chooses to enjoy a quiet weekend with her three best friends, before her wedding to her girlfriend, Maddy.

Linda (Sara Beharrell) had worked with her friends at a local fish factory in Hull.

There is Jan (Allison Saxton), a divorced mum-of-one to Clare, a daughter who has made a great life for herself in South Africa, but sadly now has little time for her mum, the woman who had worked her fingers to the bone to send her to Cambridge University.

Next up is grey-haired Pearl (Fenella Norman), who, after falling pregnant at 17, had to marry the father, with whom she has spent many decades – latterly very unhappily.

Last but not least is Shelley (Gemma Oaten), the live-wire glamour puss of the group, who arrives unexpectedly. Supposedly living the high life on Australia’s sunny Gold Coast, it turns out she is living the dull life on England’s grey east coast instead.

I found this third in the trilogy by Whittington (Ladies Day and Ladies Down Under being numbers one and two), part of the theatre’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, amusing in parts, but a bit puzzling in others.

It yo-yo’d from present day, to times long past. And the first indication that we had changed centuries was when Mabel (Martha Godber) and Daisy (Nell Baker) ran onto the stage, dressed in the long, workaday clothes of the island’s “herring girls” from another era.

In a nod to their past jobs, our four former fish-factory workers had rented Herring Cottage on the island, only to find it had been double booked.

So the four spent long, cold hours outdoors, ruminating about their lives, telling their secrets, laughing, drinking, arguing, dancing – anything to while away the hours until daybreak.

We also witness Mabel and Daisy’s lives, through song, dance and narrative, at regular intervals throughout.

All voices were loud, clear and tuneful, and I couldn’t fault the acting. But I didn’t really take to the script – or was it the storyline that didn’t appeal to me? I can’t really put my finger on it.

Nevertheless, I joined in with the warm applause everyone on stage obviously deserved.

Running until Saturday, October 22nd, 2022, nightly at 7.30pm with 2pm matinees on October 8th, 12th, 15th, 19th and 22nd. Tickets cost from £10. Call (01482) 323638 or visit www.hulltruck.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 4th October 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★

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