Rembrandt in Hull written by Dave Lee, opened the new performance venue on Whitefriargate above Wrecking Ball Music & Books. The play imagines, or re-interprets, a meeting between the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn and the then standing MP for Hull, 17th Century poet Andrew Marvell with politics and painting, poetry and social hierarchy all ripe for skewering.
You could see the actors were having fun with the story, revelling in being back on stage after however long, and the audience too were transformed from obedient lambs, doing all that was asked, into an uproarious bunch erupting into gales of laughter, hooting and hawing at the glorious inventions and the multitude of midden jokes.
I haven’t opened the wax-sealed envelope with my name on it presented me on arrival – a smart touch – which I daresay has all the cast names inside and whatnot, for it is a social artefact, a memento of the much anticipated return of live theatre and theatregoers. It has to be said that all were skilled players, adept in lyrical jousting, the art of the undercut, the disguise, playing to the crowd, and the odd moments of improv just to keep everyone guessing.
It doesn’t matter that at this very early stage it is a script-in-hand performance, or that the cast have had but a few days to rehearse, it is simply brilliant fun, with enough literary humour and historical in-jokes for the bookworms, and more colourful language for those with more ribald taste: who knew that 17th Century Hull folk conversed with such a rich and passionate vocabulary eh? A fresh and hearty historical farce: just what the doctor ordered after month upon month of lockdown. Sure to become a local favourite in the ensuing years.
A play in two acts with an interval, where the audience could stretch their limbs, pick up pre-ordered refreshments from the bar downstairs… and be assured sanitising stations and one-way systems were in place, mask wearing when moving about the space and social distancing in the auditorium as and when the occasion dictates.