Along with the SIXTY FIVE MILES company, I have been up in Hull since the beginning of January, rehearsing Matt Hartley’s beautiful play in time for its opening last week. One of the great joys of this job is the chance it offers to travel, getting to know the UK’s many towns, villages and cities along the way.

Despite having lots of friends who came to University here (Matt included), I didn’t know Hull at all before we decamped here for the month. Having spent three years living in Sheffield when at University myself (and a considerable amount of time back in the city for last year’s Sheffield Theatres collaboration, ROUNDABOUT), I’ve noticed certain similarities between these two Northern Giants; the warmth of the people, the positive effect of a large student population, the tension between historic and modern and the important place the theatre plays in the cultural landscape.

So in celebration of our collaboration with Hull Truck Theatre, here are my five favourite things about Hull:

Hull Marina

Whilst it feels slightly disconnected from the centre of town, the Marina is a beautiful new development where I have had the great fortune of living for the past five weeks. On cold, crisp days, with the sun hanging low in the sky, it’s a beautiful area for a head-clearing, pre-rehearsal stroll. Close to the old town and near to the brilliant The Deep (a sub-marium).

Princes’ Avenue

Much like Eccleshall Road in Sheffield, Princes Ave (as it’s known locally) is a residential area packed with independent restaurants, bars, cafes and shops and has been our first choice hang-out on Sundays. We tend to start with a drink at the laid-back Pave, with its choice of around 30 different international beers and live Jazz. Then it’s on to Brimbles for a roast where the informal atmosphere, good wine and well-priced beef and turkey combo goes down a treat. A contingent also enjoyed a great meal at Marrakech one night last week.

Shopping

For a town that has three different shopping centres, you’d expect to be able to pick up at least one or two choice pieces – not least during the January sales. The St.Stephens Centre in between the theatre and the station is the pick of the bunch, but Katie and Amy managed to dig out a few timeless classics at the two big city-centre charity shops. Needless to say we’re all a little lighter in the pocket but better dressed as a result.

Hull Truck Theatre

For several reasons, Hull Truck Theatre is a jewel in Hull’s cultural crown. The spirit of the theatre’s roots still lives strong in its audience – there is an ownership and investment in the informality of the company’s tradition that permeates the building and its patrons. Clearly the ethos of Mike Bradwell and John Godber of making fiercely entertaining, locally relevant, brand new and deeply personal theatre in a democratic space is cherished by the people of Hull. But now it’s got the added dimension of being complemented by a much bigger theatre, a broader repertory of work (including co-productions with neighbouring theatres, classic work and community projects) and a modern approach to collaboration and touring. Moreover, it does some of the best food in the whole of Hull. The Fish Pie (served with smoked salmon Caesar salad) is one of the best any of us have ever tasted. Craige is officially addicted to the Eggs Benedict, and between us, Ian and I just about drank them dry of locally brewed Wold Gold. A fantastic team of people, both front of house and backstage, only adds to the feeling that Hull Truck is a lovely place to work, eat, drink, watch and play.

The Star and Garter

The rule is that what happens on tour stays on tour, and never has this been truer than when we discovered The Star and Garter. On a Thursday night, the DJ will play whatever you want, there are free shots for every customer between 2 and 3am, and last orders is at 5. There’s enough haze to satisfy any lighting designer, the sound system is suitably deafening, and whilst the Guinness tastes like liquorish, its practically impossible to leave. No photos for this entry I’m afraid – The Star and Garter has to be experienced first hand…

Whilst we hope to have the chance to take the production on tour at a later date, SIXTY FIVE MILES is currently scheduled for a limited run in Hull only. You can book tickets here.