I had a great evening at Hull Truck Theatre last night and this is why you should go and see Princess & The Hustler.
When I arrived at the theatre there was a small stage set up in the foyer. Whilst having pre-show drinks, everyone was treated to a lovely singer called Rebecca Ramone. Rebecca sang quite a few Motown songs, and not only did she set the mood for the evening, she was very pleasant to listen too.
The play is set in 1963 Bristol and follows Jamaican immigrant Mavis (Donna Berlin) and her two children, Junior (Fode Simbo) and Princess (Kudzai Sitima). Junior is a budding photographer and loves to go out and about with his friends. Princess, who is 10 years old, dreams about being the winner of the Weston-Super-Mare Beauty Contest. Mavis also has a best pal called Margot (Jade Yourrell) who injected some great humour into her character as well as giving me some dress envy.
The family is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of Mavis’ husband, Wendell. He is The Hustler; sharply dressed with an answer to everything. However, he is no match for Mavis’ sharp tongue and (impressive) pointy finger. Wendell had left Mavis to bring up the children alone and she was not going forgive, or let him forget. She throws him out, however, he appears moments later along with a young girl. The young girl is his daughter, Lorna (Emily Burnett), who has been raised in Liverpool. Princess is thrilled to get to know her and even more thrilled to discover she is her half-sister. There develops a beautiful bond between the girls.
As usual in a woman’s relationship with her female friend, the presence of a man puts it in jeopardy. When Wendell starts to get his feet under the table, Margot is wary. Matters uncomfortably turn to ‘us’ and ‘them’ when there is a bus strike in Bristol to allow the employment of the immigrants on the buses. This provides an undercurrent of communities at war, leading to a fall out with Mavis and Margot.
Initially I had to wait until my ear tuned into the broad Jamaican accent of Mavis and Wendell; but once tuned in, the rapport between the two characters developed beautifully. Wendell and Mavis were brilliantly played, and Mavis in ‘rant’ mode was very scary (reminded me of my mum in the early 60’s, when a parent only had to look in a certain way to instil fear and discipline).
Princess was played excellently by Kudzai Sitima. She had all the mannerisms of a ten year old and the audience loved her portrayal. When she was on stage with Emily Burnett, as Lorna, they gelled together as convincing young friends.
Related: See what’s on at Hull Truck Theatre
Wendell senior had me hating him for abandoning his family, and for his hustling ways. However, work shy Junior (Fode Simbo) was excellent at holding him to account on a regular basis, which resulted in bad feeling in the household.
This was a great production by Eclipse Theatre, Bristol Old Vic and Hull Truck. It was well written, had convincing characters and the setting was simple; with just a living room set out on stage which eventually morphed into various rooms/homes with clever prop changes by the cast.
I would highly recommend this production. The pre-show entertainment was just as great as the play itself. It’s another show I could sit and watch again (I will have to monitor that obsessive trait).
Princess & The Hustler is running at Hull Truck Theatre until Saturday 16th March. Tickets are available from just £16.50 at hulltruck.co.uk. You won’t be disappointed.