Theatre review: Jack Lear at Hull Truck Theatre by Julia Pattison

Jack Lear runs until Saturday 2 February.
Jack Lear runs until Saturday 2 February.

Play: Jack Lear

Venue: Hull Truck Theatre

Dates: Until Feb 2nd 2019

Review: Julia Pattison

Hull Truck Theatre kicked off its programme of theatre for the Spring/Summer 2019 season with a wonderfully rollicking re-working of a Shakespeare classic King Lear, Jack Lear.

Barrie Rutter, a Hull lad through and through, returned to direct and play the title role of Jack and has breathed new life into Ben Benison’s dramatic tale of love, strife and envy (last performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in 2008) with the support of Artistic Director Mark Babych, a talented cast and a fabulous creative team.

In this tale, Lear was widower Jack, a wealthy trawler owner who had raised his daughters up to be “man daughters”. Morgana (Nicola Sanderson), Freda (Sarah Naughton) and Victoria (Olivia Onyehara) hated each other and felt trapped until at last freedom beckoned as Jack announced that he was to split his fortune between them.

The acappella sea-shanties throughout the play, reflected the rough raw trawler men’s lives in 1970s Humberside, with Ben’s brilliant blank verse, full of vivid sea imagery, and the solid percussion sound driving home the gruelling way of life Jack’s daughters had endured, as he had too, as a lad. A blustering, blundering bully, Barrie Rutter was utterly convincing in the role, and a credit to his skill as an actor that we felt sorry for him eventually as he was reduced to a shuffling shell of his old self, only coming alive when he could regal stories to his daughters in Viking saga style.

This feisty production gripped you from the start, with a particular highlight being when Jack set off in his boat after being rejected by his daughters; the mesmerising combination of the flapping unfurled sail with wild waves projected onto it, and imaginative sound and lighting along with a stunning performance from Rutter, took your breath away.

All the actors commanded the space in their roles, but Andy Cryer nearly stole the show with his superb portrayal of sneaky solicitor Edmund; his Saturday Night Fever antics nearly brought the house down with laughter – he was a character you loved to hate and his demise seemed very fitting.

A play of passion and an iconic northern voice; a quality production well worth experiencing.