Outdoor theatre offers a whale of a time in Hull this summer

Outdoor theatre, featuring a radical new reworking of Herman Melville’s epic novel, Moby Dick, is set to return to Hull this summer.

Hosting the shows in June will be Stage@TheDock, an amphitheatre-style multi-purpose venue built in an old dry dock overlooking the River Hull, which offers the perfect location for this maritime classic.

The new version of Moby Dick, adapted by playwrights John Godber and Nick Lane, will transport audiences from what was Hull’s Central Dry Dock to the deck of Captain Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, in his catastrophic battle with the monster white whale.

And as well as a fitting venue – with views across the Humber Estuary and of the city’s iconic aquarium, The Deep – the choice of Moby Dick resonates with 800 years of seafaring heritage of this centuries-old Yorkshire port.

East Yorkshire can also lay claim to its own links to the author and his classic novel, including the tale of a whale said to have inspired Melville. In 1825, a gigantic sperm whale was found stranded on the Holderness Coast, and was claimed by Sir Thomas Aston Clifford Constable. A wonder of its time, the skeleton was mounted on an iron structure and placed on display in the parkland of his ancestral home, Burton Constable Hall, about nine miles west of Hull.

It is said that the skeleton captured the imagination of Melville, who visited the Hall while carrying out research for his novel. Today the remains of the skeleton, nicknamed Constable Moby, are on display in the Great Barn of the newly restored Stable Block at Burton Constable Hall (https://bit.ly/3eAeaV2).

In the novel, Herman Melville also mentions a “Leviathanic Museum” in Hull, which has “fine specimens of fin-backs and other whales”. The museum was that of the Hull Literary and Philosophical Society, which was founded in 1822.

With references to Hull’s maritime history and contemporary discussions regarding oceanic conservation, this new production – which runs from 2-12 June – sees the return of live performances to the stunning waterside amphitheatre, the city’s only permanent new venue created for the 2017 City of Culture year.

Adhering to social distancing rules, with a playing time of 70 minutes and no interval, this fast-paced physical production of one of the greatest adventure stories ever told will be one of the first outdoor theatre events for over a year due to Covid-19.

Seating for Moby Dick is limited to allow for social distancing, and all tickets are priced at £20. Ticket details are available at www.thejohngodbercompany.co.uk/moby-dick.

Currently Hull’s Maritime Museum, which normally offers an insight into the city’s whaling past along with aspects of its rich maritime history, is closed for major refurbishment, part of the multi-million pound ‘Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City’ project that will see some of the city’s most historic attractions expanded and improved.

Due to open its doors again in 2023, the new-look Museum – housed in the city’s old Dock Offices, dating back to 1871 – will offer new ways for visitors to discover more about the lives and stories of the people and places that made maritime Hull what it is today.

For more information about Hull, see www.visithull.org

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