Theatre review: The Hypocrite – Hull Truck Theatre

Theatre review: The Hypocrite Hull Truck Theatre

It’s been years since I sat in Hull Truck Theatre. Decades probably, but when I heard that Mark Addy was starring in The Hypocrite, penned by the city’s own Richard Bean, and backed by the RSC, I realised it was time I returned. 
So this Saturday night I’m with a packed out audience, wondering why I haven’t been back in eons. And it comes down to having that must-see show or actor that makes it worth my while. 

Addy is one of those thesps who deserves the trek. Of course the world woke up to his skills in The Full Monty 20 years ago, and while he took plenty of diversions along the way, it was his role in Game of Thrones that reminded me why he’s one of Blighty’s best. 

I’m not surprised Hollywood keeps snapping him up for projects like The Flintstones prequel, The Time Machine and Robin Hood. He’s as rock solid as they come when gravitas is needed in the flimsiest of projects, and as soon becomes apparent on stage, his comic timing is second to none.   

I knew two things about this show before I arrive. One is obviously the star, and the other is the fact it’s a period comedy. At the back of my mind that means it’s going to be hard work, but a few seconds in and it’s anything but. 

It starts with Sir John Hotham’s (Addy) demise (the first of many clever stage illusions) and then fills us in on what led to this grisly turn of events. 

’That looks like Caroline Quentin’, I think as Hotham’s wife, Lady Sarah, arrives on stage, and of course it is. I’d done such a good job of avoiding reviews for fear of being let down, I knew nothing of any co-stars. And they are terrific. 

Rowan Polonski (Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Prince Rupert of the Rhein has the mesmerising stage presence of a young Tim Curry, while Laura Elsworthy (Fresh Meat) does a terrific job providing exposition as servant girl Connie. Full marks too for Harry Potter veteran Ben Goffe as Charles I. He also plays a ghost who takes the breath away. 

Danielle Bird as the Baldrick-style comic relief Drudge is astonishing. Hanging from a hook one minute; balancing precariously from a light fitting later in the show, and at the end of the first half, wowing the masses with a stunt involving a drawbridge. 

It might be a period romp with the feel of Python and Blackadder thrown in, but this is on a par with their best output. 

There are many gags about Hull dialect, much to the the delight of the audience, which makes me wonder how well it translates when it transfers to Stratford later in the year. Gags about his holiness “The Perp” might leave a few punters confused. 

This run is the world premiere, one of the reasons it’s sold out every night. However, the buzz would keep packing them in for weeks to come if it was extended for a longer run. (This is supposed to be the final night, but demand means it’s been extended).
Unlike some stage plays which feature humdrum musical interludes, the songs are very good. So good I wonder if there’s a soundtrack available in the lobby. (There isn’t alas). 

One thing that keeps returning to me about the City of Culture is a London-based Arts Correspondent reporting on the launch and asking whether anyone will want to come to the shows, offering that snooty ’If it’s not in London, why bother?’ argument. 
On the strength of The Hypocrite alone, I’d imagine that reporter is probably eating his words. 

I also imagine a film version, with visuals by Peter Greenaway (not so surprising as he once made the short film Goole By Numbers), would be a sight to see. As long as it retained (almost) every cast member and word of dialogue. Okay, some speeches get a little lost in translation, but the pacing and belly laughs make it an rip-roaring success. 
Director Richard Breen makes sure there’s never a dull moment, while designer Max Jones ensures it looks fabulous; some of the costumes and THAT bed (alluded to throughout the production) have to be seen to be believed. 
I’m not surprised the cast gets a standing ovation. Addy and company shine in a complex production (I can only imagine what the rehearsals were like), and a reminder of why Hull deserves its year as City of Culture. 

This 17th-century-set farce is one of the best stage shows of this or any other year and it deserves the plaudits coming to it. The fact I’d happily see it all again in Stratford is testament to its success.


Kong-Skull Island Review

We didn’t really need another King Kong movie 12 years after Peter Jackson gave us his bum-numbing three-hour epic. That featured some of the ropiest CGI and most stomach-churning scenes I’ve seen in a mainstream monster smackdown. 
However, the makers of Godzilla have a plan: they revamp the classic old radiation-born lizard one year; wait a while; resurrect the king of all monsters movies and then team them up for the ultimate smack down. 

But first we have Kong-Skull Island, the two-hour epic which sees SAS veteran Tom Hiddleston striking heroic poses: hands on hips in a tight tee shirt, showing where all that gym work went.  

He’s teamed with a small army of US soldiers and assorted experts sent to the eponymous region to investigate mysterious goings on before enemy forces do. 

Thrown into the mix is Weaver (Brie Larson), a likeable photojournalist and one of the few women in the entire movie; obsessed military man Samuel L Jackson; John Goodman, adding gravitas to the proceedings as one of the team who get the mission green-lit, and countless military and money types who may as well walk around with VICTIM stamped on their jackets. 

The whole thing is brisk, snappy and feels like its edited in the dark with garden shears. 

There’s barely a chance to build up any tension before another poor soul has met their fate at the claws or jaws of another monster predator. 

But let’s start at the beginning. 

After a Second World War-set intro when two opposing soldiers face off on a rock on that isle of mystery, we are given another Godzilla-style intro featuring fast cuts before things jump to 1973 Vietnam and the assorted members of the mission are assembled. 

We know what a couple of them do because the tools of their trade are shown in close up. Thankfully it’s a gimmick that isn’t pursued for long. 

The influence of Apocalypse Now is so obvious in its scenes and some advertising that I’m amazed it wasn’t crowd funded by a Francis Ford Coppola fan club. But if you’re going to lift inspiration from somewhere, lift it from one of the best war movies ever made. 

Following the Army’s squad of helicopters through an electrical storm, in which Sam Jackson spouts the sort of rousing dialogue probably polished by an uncredited Quentin Tarantino, we emerge in the Jurassic Park-style land that time forgot. Had a Doug McClure lookalike turned up with a U-boat full of extras as a homage to those creaky 1970s fantasy movies involving plastic dinosaurs, I would not have been surprised. 

What KSI gets right is that roller coaster sense of fun. Yes, it’s nonsense, but those assorted films with prehistoric creatures and daring explorers has been the staple of books and cinema for centuries, and they’re not about to fall out of fashion any time soon. 

While some of the dialogue is so-so, the creature effects are mostly terrific. 

The nightmarish skull-headed lizards are gloriously creepy, and it’s hard not to feel for Kong every time he takes a bullet or a bite. 

I’m glad Kong isn’t shipped off to the States for yet another New York-set finale. We’ve seen enough of those in previous incarnations, though arachnophobia sufferers be warned: one scene involving a giant spider is bound to give you nightmares. 

Is it the best film of the year? No, but it is an engaging B-movie with a great cast and some wonderful action scenes. 

I don’t emerge from the cinema feeling short changed, but I do wonder whether Godzilla vs King Kong will be a let down on a par with Batman vs Superman when it finally sees the light of day in a few years. 

Well worth a look.

Logan – Film Review

The latest big screen chapter of the X-Men franchise is one of the best entries to date. Not that it’s really an X-Men movie but a futuristic Western examining the assorted problems of the eponymous razor-clawed hero, played once more by Hugh Jackman.
He’s as angry as ever, driving a limo so he can earn enough cash to pay for Charles Xavier’s meds. 
Holed up in a toppled water tower, Professor X is a shadow of his former self with a condition that causes violent seizures – for himself and everyone around him. 

Their paths cross with a young girl capable of incredible things, and before long they go on the run from enemy forces. 

Thrown into the mix is Stephen Merchant as Caliban, the bald albino mutant detector who thankfully keeps his toned down accent instead of adopting a generic transatlantic version. Richard E Grant adds suave menace as a Joseph Mengele-style bad guy. 

This is easily the most violent 15 certificate comic book movie you’ll see all year, and also one of the best for the most part.  

Though far too long, it’s a mature, intelligent glimpse of the future with some nice ideas, such as automated trucks that look all too feasible, though the drones of the late 2020s don’t seem to have changed much from now. 

Given Xavier’s Lazarus-like comeback after X-Men: The Last Stand (the weakest of the saga), it’s good to see Patrick Stewart back at all, though he did feature in Days of Future Past, which suggested he did have a more futuristic and dark future. It’s hard to keep up with all these X-Men universes, especially now Fox’s Legion is expanding it further and is one of my favourite shows of the year. 

Jackman is as good as ever as the constantly grumpy, reluctant hero, who seems to take the combined physical abuse of all the previous X-Men and Wolverine movies combined in this movie’s running time. 

After his last solo outing I was pretty bored of his standalone adventures, but this puts the series back on track. 

After 17 years, off and on, I don’t blame Jackman for calling it a day. He’s been consistently good in every movie, even if some of the films didn’t deserve it. 

Who knows whether this is his last stand, but if it is, Jackman ensures Logan’s run ends on a high.