Posts Tagged ‘Hull UK City of Culture’

Playwright Tom Wells earned his ‘must see’ place on my list with two of the most heart-warming and funny plays of recent years – The Kitchen Sink and Jumpers for Goalposts (oh, and a lovely monologue as part of Unusual Unions backstage at the Royal Court) – so I pounced at the chance to see this one-hour one-person musical, with songs by Matthew Robins, in the Bush Theatre’s Reading Room on a brief visit from Hull, and what a delight it is.

The audience is standing in for the school assembly and 15-year-old Liam is making a project prize presentation, a musical about his friend Caz’s planned synchronised swimming project. She’s an offstage character who we get to know almost as well, a trademark of Wells’ work, as is her dad, his mum & her new man Barry and the lifeguard at the pool. Liam talks and sings us through his year from arriving in Hull through meeting Caz, her previous projects and the development of this one. Most of the time he’s standing with his guitar, but he relocates a couple of times and the audience participate in a prop-handling sort of way before eventually becoming the chorus.

Wells has a real ear for teenage dialogue and both the writing and Andrew Finnigan’s charming performance ooze authenticity, including the not always perfect guitar playing and singing, and every single facial expression and posture. It’s brilliant storytelling, which feels like you’re reading Liam’s diary of a year of growing up, friendship and fledgling love. Jane Fallowfield’s homespun staging is completely in tune with the material, which the venue seemed to complement too.

Just as heart-warming and funny as his other plays, surly we’ll see more than this handful of performances?

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Over the last eleven years, dreamthinkspeak’s immersive, site-specific shows have taken me to an atmospheric registry building in Edinburgh, a former abattoir in London, a disused department store in Brighton, a former town hall in London and now to a vacant office building and car park as part of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture. (That’s not counting their brilliant take on Hamlet at Riverside Studios as part of the World Shakespeare Festival in 2012!). As ever I am in awe of the extraordinary efforts they go to in planning, designing and building their unique experiences.

For this one, we visit the offices of Kasang, a high-tech South Korean corporation. We’re told that they, and all other South Korean corporations, owe their success and progress to democratisation, which became a reality after the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, which started with students but gained momentum and overthrew the military government. With our tablets in hand, we experience the future of retailing, live gaming and virtual reality in parallel with flashback experiences of military rule, imprisonment and memorial of the events that led up to the freedom which has produced these perceived dividends. Moving through several floors of the building, we navigate a maze of corridors and rooms on a linear journey where I somehow finally lost all others and ended up alone in a vast space, deeply moved.

In addition to an extraordinary theatrical experience, I learnt something new about 20th Century Korean history; somewhat topical as it turns out. It was only the third day, so it will get tighter and slicker, but it’s a must for immersive and site specific junkies like me and may well prove to be the highlight of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture. On until 1st October, it’s a must.

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