John Godber has landed at Hull Truck Theatre with his latest offering called Poles Apart which is an attempt at asking the questions that exist between theatre and your average Joe Bloggs.
The set up, ordinary working men (scaffolders in this case) working in the slightly run-down ageing theatre with a proud history which has apparently seen its stage graced by Ken Dodd, Jasper Carrott and John Bishop, while the executive director Grahame (played by the reliable Rob Hudson) and star attraction Abi (played with great poise and presence by Ruby Thompson) fret about the opening night of the show which is meant to save the theatre financially.
Added to their problems is that workmen Phil (played with just the right chauvinistic attitude by Keith Hukin) Jan (played by the compelling Frazer Hammill) and Pete (played by the wonderfully timed Adrian Hood) seem more interested in drinking tea, eating and talking about their problems/connections with the ladies.
The first half ambles along with the occasional decent laugh to be had but seems slightly off key for a comedy although there are some definite highlights in what is a well acted piece with a strong script and the early establishment of the relationship between Grahame and the workmen is well done and draws on established theatre language that everyone will recognise instantly.
The set up before Jan’s one man show is built up quite well and his little show maybe deserved a small round of applause but didn’t get one.
There is a bit of a cliffhanger thrown in just before the interval when Phil overhears a conversation between Abi and Grahame which leaves him feeling rather annoyed.
In the second half the production clearly improves with more laughs and moving at a faster pace, however the whole piece suffers from the direction. John Godber is a wonderful writer, of that there can be absolutely no doubt, but what this piece needs is an independent director who would undoubtedly get more out of the script.
While it asks plenty of interesting questions about modern theatre and the audience it draws, and why certain people maybe don’t go, there is a spark there which needs more punch from the direction which could be un-achievable when it’s being directed by the person who wrote it.
One other area where this production also fails a bit for me is that the character of Abi is not on stage enough, when she’s there her effervescence is plain for all to see as she provides that touch of star quality that her feisty character is all about, when she isn’t there it notices although the other actors do make-up for it with some tangibly strong acting.
All-in-All the production is crying out for some stronger direction but it is also well worth watching with some good laughs guaranteed.
The production is on at Hull Truck until Saturday 14 November with tickets available at the Box Office at the theatre, on the phone on 01482 323638 or online Tickets