Lovesick daughters, obsessive ghosts and a wife intent on escape
The Hypocrite tells the tale of the worst day ever for the Governor of Hull circa 1642, Sir John Hotham, and a defining moment in Hull’s history.
Presented by Hull Truck Theatre, Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) as part of Hull 2017’s first season Made In Hull, it’s a riotous comedy about Hull’s most notorious past. And it’s all written by Olivier Award winning Hull-born playwright Richard Bean.
With a view to challenging public perceptions of Shakespeare’s work, The Hypocrite will include the largest cast ever to take to Hull Truck’s stage and an innovative set of stage trickery and illusions. The production builds on Hull Truck’s ongoing work with the RSC. The RSC, by the way, is the only theatre company that has its very own armoury – and with a stash that includes breastplates, gauntlets, belts and weaponry, it’s probably best not to mess with them.
The hypocrite in question is Sir John Hotham. Charged by Parliament to deny King Charles I entry to the city of Hull in 1642, Hotham’s actions spark the English Civil War … and losing his head seems a more than likely outcome. And then there are his problems at home: a lovesick daughter; a ghost obsessed with the chinaware; sexually arousing furniture; and a wife who’s intent on escape.
Writer Richard Bean was born and bred in east Hull, winning a host of accolades in 2011 and 2012 for his plays The Heretic and One Man, Two Guvnors. For The Hypocrite, Richard has written a farce, as history “suggests itself as such”, he says.
“Growing up in Hull, I learnt that Hotham was some kind of rebel hero, but nothing could be further from the truth,” says Richard. “He was a self-serving traitor to both sides, and indeed would have been executed by Charles had the Royalists won the war.”
Hotham started the war as a Parliamentarian who eventually turned towards being a Royalist before being beheaded. After forming a crafty meeting to discuss his plans to refuse entry to Charles on 23 April 1642 at what is now Ye Olde White Harte Inn (in a room aptly dubbed by locals as The Plotting Parlour) a majority vote resulted in the gates of Hull being closed to the King. Hotham was regarded a traitor and his oldest son, also named John Hotham, was also found guilty.
Hotham took his place on the naughty step at Tower Hill, London where he and John Hotham Jnr were executed on consecutive days at the beginning of January in 1645 – a double-whammy of disappointment for the Hotham crew. With one blow, Hotham died at the age of 56 after having his head ripped clean off his head. Lovely stuff, eh?
Directing the production is Philip Breen, whose other RSC comedy credentials include The Merry Wives of Windsor (2012), which was screened at the V&A in London as part of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations, and The Shoemaker’s Holiday (2014).
Mark Babych, artistic director at Hull Truck, will be running a Discover Day for The Hypocrite on Saturday 4 March, which offers a chance to see how a production such as this one comes to life. It will include an informal workshop with the cast, an exploration of the play and a matinee performance ticket.
Mark says: “We’re thrilled to be working with the Royal Shakespeare Company on The Hypocrite and of course, exceptionally delighted that this world premiere is written by one of Hull’s most famous sons, Richard Bean.”
A related production by Hull Truck Senior Youth Theatre and Act III Over-55s theatre-makers’ group will be staged in a secret location in Hull from Wednesday 22 March to Saturday 25 March 2017. Defiance explores what happens when the “protest generation” meets the “politically apathetic”, and asks what defiance means to each group.
The Hypocrite: Hull Truck Theatre from Friday 24 February to Saturday 18 March 2017, 7.30pm. Matinees: 4, 8, 11, 15, 18 March, 2pm, with an audio-described performance taking place on Thursday 16 March, 7.30pm, Age recommendation 14+. Tickets for The Hypocrite are on sale now.