LipService Theatre - Withering Looks

I don’t know what you were doing last night. But we were in a hall in Howden laughing at someone pulling faces.

Well, they were very funny faces.

We went to see a performance of “Withering Looks” by LipService Theatre. We’ve seen them before, in a production of “Mr. Darcy Loses the plot” at Hull Truck Theatre. That turned us into instant fans.

LipService Theatre are Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding and have been producing their blend of literary comedy and face pulling since the 1980’s. Everything is very clever, beautifully produced and, deeply, deeply silly. Get to see them if you can.

Whiskey Galore at Hull Truck

Whisky Galore is a tale of scheming Scots folk and shipwrecked whisky. Set on the twin isles of Great Toddy and Little Toddy during the Second World War, the action starts with the inhabitants enduring a whiskey famine. No small affair when "a wee dram" is so much a part of life.

Things brighten up considerably  when a boat runs aground nearby and releases thousands of bottles of whiskey into the sea. Then it becomes a race to spirit away as much as possible under the noses of salvage teams, the army and the dreaded revenue officers. And of course there is the little matter of a few romances to be guided to their happy endings.

It's all great fun, made all the more so by the fact that the play is being performed by the Pallas Players, an all-female touring theatre company from 1955. The staging and the way the scenery and props are used to build an atmosphere (and get some laughs) is very impressive.

At times you think that you're watching a very well engineered piece of machinery ticking on the stage in front of you. But it's done with such verve and obvious enjoyment that you don't sit there thinking of Swiss watches at all. 

If you can get tickets you should go. It's not that much more expensive than a movie, and it's much more interesting to see real people present stuff in front of you than any number of movie special effects. Find out more here.

Midsummer Night's Dream at Hull Truck

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There are a few nights left of this performance of Shakespeare's classic play at Hull Truck. You can probably still get tickets. 

And you should. Go here. Buy them. Go see. You'll thank me. 

We went tonight and it was very, very, funny. Some lovely twists on the original, and a bun fight at the end. And that's the most I can say without giving away any spoilers (which is not something you can usually say about a Shakespeare production).

"The Culture" is really good

You've got to be pretty sure of yourself to allow someone to write a farce about what you're doing. Or brave. Or something. But the Hull City of Culture team did it. "The Culture" is a behind the scenes look at just what goes on in the offices behind those fancy slogans and artistic happenings. There are some lovely nods to the buzzwords and whatnot that come with organising something like Hull City of Culture, but all credit to the team for letting it all happen. And hats off to Martin Green, the head honcho of City of Culture, who actually turned up to take part in the performance that we saw. 

 "The Culture" is a proper farce. Double meanings, mistaken identity, hiding in cupboards, bawdy bits, the lot. It also has a genuine, beating heart at the centre. The cast do a great job of bringing the play to life. Their energy never flagged from start to end. And it wasn't until right at the end, when I wondered where some of the actors had got to for the curtain call, that I worked out just how many roles each cast member played. 

I'm not sure if you'll be able to get tickets to see it before it finishes its run, but if you can, I think you'll have a really good time.

Frogman

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Last wee we went to see "Frogman" by Curious Directive. It's an intriguing story told by a combination of theatre and virtual reality. We really wanted to see what the VR stuff looked like, and how it was slotted into the narrative. So off we went.

The answer is that the VR looks pretty good and adds a lot to the experience. The production cleverly avoids the audience having to spend great chunks of time wearing the headsets, and manages the transitions between scenes very well. The one actor in the show does an astonishing job. Tessa Parr plays the part of a scientist studying the Great Barrier Reef who's past comes back to haunt her. And she does it really well.   

I think that one measure of a good story is the amount of discussion it generates on "what was really going on". On that score I reckon that Frogman is a great story. If you get the chance you should go and see this. Absolutely. 

A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian

We went out to acquire some culture tonight. A proper play, with actors and everything. It was at Hull Truck. A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. It's based on a book with the same name. And it's great. Book adaptations can be tricky things to do. A book can have hundreds of pages and loads of moving parts and complexity that doesn't always make it onto the stage. But the adaptation gets it pretty much spot on. The actors really earn their money, one chap must have played around five parts through the evening, but everything fits together really well. 

The plot is part soap opera, part history lesson and all enjoyable. Get to see it if you get the chance. 

One Day Maybe

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One Day Maybe is incredible. Very hard to describe, but I'm jolly glad I went. It is part tech demo, part history and part interpretive dance (in a good way). The performers (and there are lots of them) work very hard to build a piece of art that muses on the sacrifices made to build a better future, and whether or not that future really merits them. It leaves you thinking about the bravery of people prepared to stand up against oppression, the way that the oppressors frequently get away with their crimes and the darker aspects of the future we are all hurtling towards. 

Great stuff.

One Day, Maybe

Many years ago I got to go to "It Felt Like a Kiss" in Manchester. It was one of the weirdest things that I've ever done. Especially the bit at the end where you're chased by a man with a chainsaw. 

Since then I've been on the lookout for similar, immersive theatre events. There's one on in Hull later this year. One Day, Maybe is based at the offices of Kasang, who are apparently a South Korean company newly based in Hull. I think you should all go. It looks like it's going to be awesome. 

Of course I'm only letting everyone know about this now that I've got my tickets... 

Whose Line is it Anyway. Live.

Achievement unlocked. Seen Whose Line Is It Anyway? live in London. Not quite the whole crew, but enough to be properly awesome. I remember the TV show many years ago. And now I've got fond memories of seeing them perform on the London Stage.

If you've not seen the show before I'm sure you can find it on YouTube. If you have, you'll know all about the improvisation, the lightning quick wit and the musical cleverness that goes on. It was one of those shows that makes your face ache from laughing. If you are in London and have a chance to catch one of the shows, you really, really should. 

The Ladykillers at Hull Truck

At the weekend we went to see The Ladykillers at Hull Truck. It's a play based on a film. Which was based on a film. Or something. The script is written by Graham Linehan of Father Ted fame.

Is that enough links for you?

Anyhoo, the play was great. We seem to be re-discovering live theatre at the moment, we've been twice in almost as many weeks. The Hull Truck is a great venue and we've discovered that if you sit right at the back, on the high seats, you get loads of legroom of the straight down variety and a commanding view of the stage. The theatre space is very intimate and nobody is very far from the performers. We're scanning the programme for the next thing to go and see.

The Ladykillers, a tale of dishonour amongst thieves and a most unlikely heroine, is a hoot with great performances from all. It's in Hull for the next week or so. Go see it. You'll have fun.

The Mist in the Mirror at Hull Truck Theatre

Some time ago we went to see The Woman in Black. Great play. Go see it. The movie is apparently OK, but for proper scariness you should get to the theatre.

Anyhoo, the author, Susan Hill, has also written a book - The Mist in the Mirror - which has now been turned into a play. We went along to the Hull Truck last night to see it. Very good fun.

For me it wasn't as scary as the Woman in Black though. I think some of this is because the play is an adaption of a book. Books can have as many characters and locations as they like, because words are cheap. But a play needs actors and scenery and stuff. The company did a great job handling the number of different people and it was worth seeing just for the way that the staging worked, but when the same bloke turns up as the third different character in a row you start to notice this and it detracts a bit from the suspense.

The Woman in Black works well because it was written with these constraints in mind and for much of the play it is just two people, but for this production I just thought there were too many moving parts.

I didn't find the story worked that well either I'm afraid, with a whole bunch of exposition at the end that didn't really tie things up.

But having said that, I really enjoyed the night out. Hull Truck is a great venue and it was nice to acquire a bit of culture.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is an amazing book. I read it a little while back. And now it is an even more amazing play. We got to see it today and it was one of the best pieces of theatre that I've ever seen in my life. 

The play is on tour around the UK at the moment, we got to see one of the final performance in Hull this afternoon. The theatre was packed, and quite right too. 

If you want proper drama, brilliantly staged, massively original and with characters you really care about, then you must, must go if you get the chance.