Art & CultureIssue 001

Thank you, Hull, for Kinky Boots

By 5th December 2019 No Comments

Hull has some vast new improvements and we are all for it

By Alice Longton

Ever since the 2017’s City of Culture, Hull has got a hell of a lot more money, and a hell of a lot of opportunities to better the community both financially and culturally. From Pride and festivals, all the way to a brand new Bonus Arena, the legacy of the project still continues to thrive after two years. One particular emergence from the project was the revamp of the Hull New Theatre, followed swiftly by endlessly captivating touring productions of critically acclaimed and West End shows. One, in particular, strutted it’s way onto the Hull New Theatre stage from the 12th to the 23rd of November: Kinky Boots! Based on the 2005 British film of the same name, the musical tells the story of Charlie Price. After inheriting his father’s shoe factory, Charlie creates an unlikely business partnership with a cabaret drag performer, Lola. While creating a line of high-heeled, thigh-high boots in order to save the business, the two discover that they’re not so different after all. Unfortunately, I was too late to grab a ticket…but I knew someone who did. I asked MA drama student, Eirlys Widget, about her experiences watching the musical, as well as her opinion on what the new Hull New Theatre could do for the culture of Hull.

What were your overall thoughts on the musical?
Overall I did really enjoy it – I’d never seen it before, so I was excited to see what it was like. I didn’t know any of the songs, didn’t know the storyline at all, I hadn’t seen the movie or anything before, so it was nice to go and experience a new musical.

How do you think it worked in the space it had? Did it look good on the Hull New Theatre stage? Because obviously it’s mainly shown on the West End stage.
Yeah, it worked really well. Obviously, I’ve seen a couple of different shows at the New Theatre now and it seemed to fit in amongst the kind of usual way of doing things. People seemed to really enjoy it. In the end there’s a very strong ‘get up and dance’ kind of mood, and even in that theatre space, they were able to get everybody on their feet which was fun.
With the audience too, I was really surprised to see such a variety of ages. I thought, going in, there would be a lot of people my age, but actually, the majority was older. It’s nice that they weren’t put off by the topic of LGBTQA+ and drag culture.

“It was nice to see people dancing and getting on board with it.”

What were some of your favourite things about the musical?

The songs are great! It’s very feel-good, with a really nice message behind it, because obviously it’s about accepting people for who they are whether you agree with their values or not…which is obviously a really nice message. So yeah, the songs add to that for most of the night – incredibly uplifting, and there’s a couple of really sombre moments with the character, Lola, which were just…beautiful. It was very emotional. The staging is amazing. The costumes are fabulous in every sense of that word. It’s just a great, fun, feel-good show.

Are there any negative aspects?

Well, there are actually some. I wasn’t a massive fan of some of the actors. I really wasn’t a massive fan of the guy who played the lead, Charlie. He was a great actor in general but when he was singing it just didn’t seem like it came naturally to him? Kinda like it was forced. In comparison to some of the other cast members who just sang with such ease – cause there are quite a few big, belty songs and it just felt a bit strained. He didn’t necessarily miss any notes, everything was technically perfect, but watching him was a bit uncomfortable. You could see he was really trying to make it amazing, you could see it in his body, so I guess it’s nice that he put so much passion behind it, but it did make it a bit uncomfortable to watch.
And then, one of his love interests, Lauren – I think she’s from Corrie? Anyway, she was not very good. She was just so nasally when she sang. Her characterisation was amazing, but for some reason when she sang it just sounded off? Like her personality when she was acting in the songs was amazing, but when she was singing solos it was just off.
Actually, also – I didn’t know this before I went in to watch it – but cause I went with someone who had seen it twice before at the West End, he told me that they missed out a massive chunk at the beginning. So in the first song (Prince and Son/ The Most Beautiful Thing in the World), there’s supposed to be a young Charlie and a young Lola with their dads, and you see their relationship with their fathers. Charlie has a very loving one with his, Lola doesn’t have a very good relationship with his father. And in the song it should show these two relationships together. It goes through Charlie’s life with everyone in the factory and him growing up throughout the song and switching actors at each age change. It establishes his and Lauren’s relationship as well as a couple of other characters too. But in this version they didn’t have any child actors, it was just the adults, and even then the song showed nothing between Lola and his father. Watching it not knowing about that was fine, and it’s still a great song, but finding out about it afterward was such a shame that they missed out on character development. I don’t know why they left it out, but it could’ve really given the show more emotional depth.

“it’s amazing that you can get that experience here at such a reasonable price.”

Obviously, you haven’t seen Kinky Boots at the West End, but you’ve seen West End shows before, so do you think that the theatricality of the West End was shown on the Hull New Theatre stage?
Oh yeah! It was so extravagant! There’s something nice about the New Theatre in that there are no bad seats, so it’s got that extra level of West-Endness. When you go to the West End you pay so much money for tickets to be that close to it, so it’s amazing that you can get that experience here at such a reasonable price. It didn’t seem like to me anything was left out, nothing was dulled down or held back, so it was great in that sense.

Ok, last question. How do you think that refurbishing and having these touring productions at Hull New Theatre would benefit Hull, culturally, as a whole?
I think it’s great. As a drama student as well I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to see some massive productions locally. I went to see An Inspector Calls recently which is a National Theatre touring production, and there was no way I was ever gonna get to see that if Hull New hadn’t been refurbed as a result of the City of Culture and had gotten the opportunity to stage it in Hull. It’s great to be able to see these kinds of shows. I mean, when I first came to uni here I hadn’t really heard of Hull New. I’d heard of Hull Truck, but obviously Hull New was in the process of being refurbished, but as soon as it was finished there was just so much going on. I think it’s great that there are so many different things that people can go to see at such a reasonable price. It brings a new essence to Hull’s theatre scene.

~ ◊ ~

It’s true. There really is a new essence to Hull’s theatre scene. Even though I never personally saw Kinky Boots, I can see the change through the way in which locals go and see a show for leisure rather than a luxury. As someone who is local to the area, I’ve seen both the National Theatre’s production of Jane Eyre, right at the front row, and the West End production of Evita, without having to pay the inflated train prices to London. I also know what the theatre used to be like, and although they still had productions, they were more local, with the only touring shows being pantomimes. This change has been able to bring in a new wave of theatre, rich with a variety of productions for everyone to enjoy. And, at its core, it seems to bring a community together. Whether you’re a Masters student looking for a show to brighten your dreary days or a group of older women willing enough to accept and enjoy a musical about drag queens, there’s something for everyone at the new Hull New Theatre.

Leave a Reply