Hull Truck's 50th anniversary community production of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Facebook keeps reminding me of late that it’s a decade since I last went on stage as an actor.
Ten years ago this month I had a part in the Red Ladder community production Promised Land.
Appearing in the production had a profound effect on a number of the cast; several continue to work as actors and performers; one cast member has just landed a lead role in a new Disney TV series – Promised Land was the catalyst.
All of this is to demonstrate why the production appearing in Culture this week more than earns its place even though it’s ‘only’ a community production.
I envy the people involved in Hull Truck’s latest addition to its 50th anniversary celebrations; a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
More than 40 local people are taking to the stage to celebrate the company’s half century. The blurb for the show says: ‘Our aim has been to encourage people of all ages and from all backgrounds to come together to create a piece of theatre… the process has been a chance for people to talk together about where they live, what they want to see and what they need from theatre, providing a social environment to build relationships and inspire an interest in the arts’.
It’s a fine ambition and one I can virtually guarantee is being achieved right now. Hull Truck’s associate director Tom Saunders has the enviable task of leading this merry band of locals in their endeavour.
He says: “This city is full of extremely talented people, so I’m delighted to be placing the voices of local people at the heart of our anniversary year. This will be an exciting time for local participants who will be performing possibly for the first time on the main stage at Hull Truck Theatre, making this an accessible opportunity for those who might so far have only dreamed of performing in a theatre. We are committed to making sure everyone can enjoy live theatre, whether as an audience member or by taking part.”
Hull Truck’s is a remarkable story and that a theatre company that was born out of a squat with a telephone at the end of the street serving as an ‘office’ is celebrating half a century is seriously impressive.
“We started our 50th birthday season with 71 Coltman Street and Teechers Leavers ’22, which were amazing productions that celebrated Hull Truck’s unique origins,” says Saunders.
“With A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we are celebrating who we are now as a theatre. Seeing 41 local people have a great time on our stages and hearing Shakespeare’s amazing language paired with Hull accents is an absolute treat and makes a big, bold statement about who we are: a community theatre, passionate about our city and a region that champions local voices.”
What of the local voices? The cast for the production includes doctors, teachers, a garage owner, a number of delivery drivers, a head chef, a professor of cardiology and a data analyst. It’s the beauty of community productions and one I’ve witnessed first hand; an increasingly rare opportunity for people from a genuinely diverse range of backgrounds coming together and bonding over a shared experience.
The play itself is a perfect option with a large cast and several intertwining groups – the lovestruck humans, the fairies and a group of ‘Mechanicals’ – amateur actors looking to rehearse a new play under the leadership of loud-mouthed Bottom.
The man taking on the gift of a role of Nick Bottom is 74-year-old garage owner Brian Hossack. A member of Hull Truck’s theatre group for older adults, has been looking forward to the production since it was mooted two years ago.
“The chance to work on the large stage was irresistible. The Mechanicals are perfect for our group, being of a certain age and demeanour,” says Brian.
“The opportunity to work with an ensemble cast made up of many younger actors from Hull Truck and newer members, some of whom have not acted before, in what was always going to be an exciting new look at A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was very appealing.
“Being involved has been great fun, daunting, challenging with highs and lows – I was worried I wouldn’t be able to learn the lines.
“As someone who was not fond of Shakespeare’s comedies, I have found I was completely wrong. This one, at least, is hilarious.
“It is very special for me to be appearing on the main stage for the first time in what is the theatre’s 50th anniversary.”
Livie Dalee, 21, is playing mischievous fairy Puck and has recently won a place at drama school, having been a member of Hull Truck’s youth theatre for several years. “It’s so much fun to be involved. There’s something so special about a great mix of people coming together to do the same thing. It’s magical seeing the play coming to life and I’m so excited that we get to share that magic with audiences too,” she says.
The other beauty of community productions of course is that the audience gets to see people who don’t just look like them, but who are them, taking on an impressive challenge.
Livie says: “I’d never done Shakespeare before, so that was the first thing that intrigued me. At school it was always so boring because I never fully understood what was going on, but once you break it down, it’s so much fun to play with.
“Theatre is all about community and people coming together, so what better way to celebrate Hull Truck’s 50th anniversary than with a community cast production?”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Hull Truck Theatre, July 2 to 9.
Tickets from the box office on 01482 323638 or hulltruck.co.uk