Editorial Hull Daily Mail 26/03/2018
When two Northern writers take on a Strong Woman from Hull… it can only be a good thing!
In November last year the newly formed LIL DRAMA COMPANY put on their first commercial play and prayed that the people of Hull would turn out. They did! Big style!
It seems that the button that makes people get out of their chairs to invest time and money in a city centre location, was well and truly pushed. The play, “LIL” by local playwright Val Holmes, featuring its central character Lillian Bilocca, resonated with both the people whose families suffered loss in the 1968 fishing industry and those 2017 visitors who knew absolutely nothing.
The story is a big one, just like the media had tagged LIL herself, an outspoken fish factory worker from Hessle Road who said “ENOUGH’S ENOUGH” when a third Hull trawler the Ross Cleveland went down in as many weeks. A campaign to change the industries safety standards, along with fellow campaigners Yvonne Blenkinsop, Mary Denness and Christine Jenson was hard fought, with a high price paid by Lil herself. Losing her job and being vilified at times by her own community. It’s the same story of strong minded women, that attracted famed UK actress and writer Maxine Peake to write her own site specific piece “The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca”, backed by the 2017 City of Culture with resources sizeable enough to use the Guildhall for its long run. This, starting in the same week that the LIL DRAMA COMPANY had set for its own run a year beforehand!
Finding out about this untimely clash only a few weeks before opening night, gave Val and the Creative Producer Paul Dennis a few sleepless nights, until the 2017 team explained the differing style of their commissioned piece and also came through with some useful marketing support.
In essence though, the secret weapon that had most effect to pump prime LIL’S story to the people of Hull, was the taking to the streets by its own LIL’S LASSES! A group of up to fifty headscarfed and handbag wielding local women with a passion for theatre and local stories. Many of whom are in the community cast element of the play.
They’ve flash-mobbed Humber Street Gallery, paraded down Princes Avenue and replicated the silent march of 200 Hessle Road women in and around the town centre and even this year at the KC Stadium Millwall match. With both Val and Paul out with them each time, it became almost as enjoyable a part of the process as seeing the play on stage.
With a mix of local experienced actors such as Gina Garton, Jackie Rodgers, Hannah Robertson, Stan Haywood and Christopher C Corbett to name but a few, alongside less experienced and even acting novices, the play pulled at the heartstrings and banged the funnybones of its 2017 audiences.
Standing ovations and full houses nearly every night gave the confidence and income to put the play on again in 2018, the fiftieth Year of the Triple Trawler Tragedy.
DONT MISS!.. LIL the Play – 20th to 24th March 2018. Jubilee Central, King Edward St, Hull.
Tickets: www.luvull.com/tickets and over the counter at Gough & Davy, Hull(under the City Hall) Hull.