Hull Truck boss can't wait to put on live show again after Covid-hit year

Hull Truck’s artistic director Mark Babych says he can’t wait for the theatre’s curtain to go up again. The company’s city centre venue in Ferensway has been closed since March 16 last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hopes of a limited re-opening just before Christmas were dashed when another series of lockdown restrictions were announced.

But during the venue’s eleven month shutdown, the company has evolved into a multi-media organisation. Over the period it has live streamed four productions, created drama videos and learning resources for schools to use in online teaching, hosted socially-distanced live and online youth theatre sessions and organised a 10-week online project with members of Hull’s Multiple Sclerosis Society designed to encourage positivity and reduce isolation. To sign up for the Hull Live newsletter, click here.

Hull Truck’s Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker was live streamed over the festive season

The work with schools in Hull has led to the production of a new weekly 25-minute online soap opera in which writers, actors and directors work alongside secondary students to generate ideas and write scripts.

Speaking at a city council scrutiny meeting, Mr Babych said: “We have tried our very best to bring people together in various platforms over the year but we all can’t wait for the moment when we can all safely gather together again in our space.” He said the company was continuing to plan ahead with an eye on constantly changing government guidance on Covid-secure live performance. Its current programme includes a series of online monologues featuring local stories told by well-known actors and touring shows in neighbourhoods across Hull including some outdoor performances in parks and at the [email protected] amphitheatre in the Fruit Market.

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Mr Babych said Hull-born Richard Bean had also recently finished the first draft of a new commissioned play marking next year’s 50th anniversary of Hull Truck.

The award-winning playwright’s The Hypocrite performed at Hull Truck was one of the highlights of the opening season of Hull’s 2017 City of Culture programme. As well as supporting full and part-time staff through the furlough and job retention schemes, Mr Babych said the company had also provided employment for local freelancers whenever possible, including 18 roles on the free live streaming of its Christmas production Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker.

Hull Truck boss can't wait to put on live show again after Covid-hit yearHull Truck Theatre

The festive show was live streamed for 13 days over the holiday season and was watched by 25,330 people. Just over 4,500 people tuned in for the premiere performance which would have filled the theatre’s main auditorium ten times over.

Councillors heard the company lost 52 per cent of its normal income last year because of the lockdown.

However, a series of successful grant applications has helped keep it afloat along with a new sponsorship deal with Hull-based telecoms group KCOM.