Everyone back to ours
14 April 2017
With the idea of seeing what a person from Hull would make of NSDF, Lily James invited a Tinder date to watch Skellig and Ordinary Days with her
I haven’t been outside the campus yet. Hull and the people of Hull have felt like a deep blue ocean only looked at through a porthole. So, I found someone more adept than me at managing big boats and deep water, and asked them out on Tinder to go see some shows with me.
Christopher: When are you going back?
Lily: Friday. So I thought I’d bring Hull to me.
Hi. The City of Hull welcomes you.
I’m going to see if the queue’s died down and grab you a drink.
My date, Christopher, is the dockmaster of a “tiny” (his words) portside in Hull. He is tall, friendly and has brought “the loudest packet of sweets he could find”. I appreciate the commitment to the joke. He runs ahead of me to make sure he opens doors, which is tricky for him because he’s always saying “after you”.
We see Skellig first.
Christopher: Honestly, I thought it was really well done, really well written. The use of the guy with the white-grey hair [Lee Jones] as comical relief – perfect. I genuinely was, a tiny bit, tearing up.
What? I’m in touch with my emotions.
Lily: I thought he was a bit of a scene-stealer. Maybe not in a good way. Who else did you think was good?
Without him it would have been a lot sadder. And I’m quite an upbeat and happy person. I do understand that though. Honestly, I thought the whole cast was pretty good. I thought the dad had an understated role.
If there were any weaker characters, I thought maybe the mum [Sarah Kaye].
Well I wasn’t going to say anything. (It’s hard to tell if he’s just agreeing with me because he’s a nice and gallant person.)
I thought the girl who played Mina [Chloe Allen] was a bit full-on. But what an adorable person though. The two lads playing football had a good relationship, but could have been polished a bit more.
Any bits that didn’t work so well for you?
I thought that the interaction with the puppet was at times a little bit drawn out. A little bit.
(I disagree, and could have watched that puppet forever. I wanted to put coins in and let Matthew Simmonds chat to me like a Sailor Jerry.)
The set was exceptional.
Yes! The bits when they were in the hospital and the lighting went blue.
Attention to detail was absolutely on point.
Why did it make you tear up?
Well. Um. It’s quite sad! You could just see, the young lad’s relationship with his sister at first wasn’t that strong, and then he was getting more wound up about it…it was good.
I remembered as we were watching it, that I’d listened to the story book when I was younger. I was remembering bits of it that I’d listened to when I was little. The bit about 27 and 53.
Christopher thinks it’s a good introduction for people who haven’t been to the theatre very much, and I agree. A joke is established about my ability to make cauliflower cheese, and is repeated every time there is any length of silence. It gets repeated about seven times. His parents relocated to the Loire region from Hull years ago. They are a nautical family and his dad works on The Pride of Hull. He goes to the theatre once a month, and helps out with the tech for his local amateur dramatics group.
Christopher: I do like my stand-up.
Lily: I’m not a huge stand-up fan.
How do you feel about Hull being city of Culture?
I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s a bit of a joke.
Do you know many people from Hull?
Hull’s unlike any other city I’ve ever been to. It’s nice to have some recognition.
How do you mean?
It’s a really, really friendly place. Almost like a city-wide community.
I’ve never experienced that, anywhere I’ve lived.
No? That’s your fault then.
Ordinary Days plays to an enraptured and totally appropriate audience. If you’re not Warren, the idealistic and dreamy art tag-along, you’re Deb, the English major whose Xeroxed pages are more inventively formatted than they are intellectually rigorous. I didn’t even mind when they rhymed “dork” with “New York”.
The set is elegant and avoids cityscape clichés. John Reddel, the pianist and musical director enters first.
Christopher: Is he looking into our souls? He’s like the Dementor they didn’t use.
Lily: Or he’s just missed his cue.
He turns out to be an utter star. He perpetually breaks the fourth wall, grinning along at the action. He seems thrilled that it’s going well. He’s enjoying himself. It’s authentic and wonderful. There’s Starbucks behind the piano!
Alex Mackinder as Warren is remarkably well physically cast: he’s an All-American Boy, amped up to 11: the curliest curls, the biggest smile, Chaplin-esque feet pointing at all angles. The audience chat to him: they “aww” when Deb rejects him, nod in agreement, smile at him.
The singing has a couple of ragged edges. The dialogue-driven lyrics go a long way to mitigate this. Isabelle Horler’s voice is the most controlled, allowing her to really play with volume and pace. “Fine” stands out as a particular triumph.
Christopher’s a generous and vocal audience member. He audibly whispers “Oh no” when Horler sings about the death of her first husband in “I’ll Be Here”. He’s gutted that the estate agent in Skellig doesn’t ask him if he wants to buy the house. He’s very often the last to stop laughing in the room and isn’t ashamed. He does the thing when people laugh then shake their head afterwards.
Christopher tells me fun stories about sleeping on the sofa of the British Embassy in Brazil. Him being part of a boat that got arrested in Russia. Pirates boarding his boat three times, even though by the third time there was nothing left to take. He asks me if I have any fun stories. I don’t.
He has to be up at 4am to go to work. We say goodnight. He takes the rustle-y sweets and my pen. I google the lyrics to “Sort-of Fairy Tale”:
Every dot, on its own ordinary and pale
But thrown together one by one
They make this dazzling, joyous, hopeful, sort of.
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Photo credit: Giulia Delprato