PRIDE OF HULL
by Dale Haslam
09:10 – 24 May 2006
As a Mancunian living in Hull, I am always curious when the locals take a swipe at their fair city in one breath before waxing lyrical about how much they love it the next.
So I was surprised to learn a trip to Hull Truck Theatre could give me not only an education about the area’s past, but also an in-depth understanding of how proud Hullonians are of their sporting heritage.
Sully tells the story of one of Hull’s most famous sons (via the Welsh valleys, of course) – 70s and 80s rugby league legend Clive Sullivan (played by Fidel Nanton).
I wondered how the cast could use such a small stage to recreate an animated tale of heroic rags-to-riches sporting glory played out across acres of green land at the Boulevard and Craven Park, where Sullivan scored an incredible tally of 350 tries.
But co-directors Martin Barrass and Gareth Tudor Price did a superb job. With just three actors, a few props and wonderful improvisation, they turned Dave Windass’s tale into a chuckle-a-minute thrill.
West Hull taxi driver Max (Lee Green) and his east Hull passenger Chelle (Natalie Blades) are frustratingly stuck in traffic after an accident on Clive Sullivan Way. In a bizarre twist of fate, they come across the ghost of the great man Sullivan himself.
They reminisce with him about his glory days in the black-and-white hoops of Hull FC and the red-and-white colours of rivals Hull KR.
From humble beginnings in a quaint Welsh village – when Clive and his three siblings were known as the “flying Sullivans” for their breathtaking pace – to a career on the field with the two Hull clubs and off it with the RAF, Sully takes the crowd on a whistle-stop tour of a lifetime of talent and triumph, but ultimately of torment and tragedy.
With comedy tinged with drama and even a dash of audience participation from the more vociferous rugby fans, the show certainly stirred the imaginations – and memories – of those looking on.
And strong performances from all three actors helped make it a real winner.