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Hilda and the Northern Powerhouse. Grimsby Minster. 21 September 2019

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

This review previously featured in The Peoples Magazine for NE Lincolnshire.

Local company Our Big Picture, brought Hilda and the Northern Powerhouse, a work in progress to Grimsby Minster. The piece, written by Camille Hainsworth-Staples and Kate Hainsworth, consisted of the first act of a community play being developed via funding from Arts Council England.

In the opening few minutes, we meet Patience (portrayed with grace and dignity by Oyin Orija), a recently widowed single mother who is serving as a vicar at Goodmanham Church. She is trying to juggle the pressure of her job with caring for a wayward son, who in turn cannot deal with his bereavement. She is ably assisted by Lucy Murray (Alice Palmer), a lovelorn, but enthusiastic young curate.

When news arrives that Goodmanham is seeking to appoint a new bishop the charismatic Patience is the prime candidate but none of the local busybodies realises that she is receiving counsel from an unusual source, St Hilda of Whitby, a seventh century, Saxon princess, visible only to herself. Hilda was a formidable leader and helped introduce the Christian tradition to England. She is played here with strength and humour by Sarah Naughton, always lurking in the shadows or behind the pillars and arches of the Minster, as the play progresses.

We also meet a cavalcade of both historical and contemporary characters portrayed by actors familiar to Hull audiences, directed by Hull Truck’s Amanda Huxtable. Live music accompanied the production at the Minster and, keeping it in the family, we saw Harry Staples Hainsworth performing live with guitar and vocal accompaniment, along with some impressive church organ work.

The production was performed in promenade style, asking the audience to move around the building to follow the action, which kept things moving, but the lack of stage lighting meant that as dusk fell it became harder to see the performers. In addition, the staging sometimes meant that action occurred behind the audience, or in a blind spot, causing some confusion.📷Those unfamiliar with the story of Hilda may have struggled to follow the action as numerous ghostly saints, performed with gusto by Steve Willis and Adan Osborne, appeared, to pass on their encouragement to Patience, who seemed reluctant to even consider her rather inevitable fate of becoming a bishop. So, we were left with something of a cliff hanger at the end of the performance as Patience received the news of her promotion and the action drew to a close. No explanation was ever given as to why Hilda, the (surprisingly mute) poet Caedmon and others had chosen to appear to Patience at this stage in the play.Act Two of this play has been outlined, and the characters arcs have been mapped for future development, but we were not given any detail of these ideas at the close of proceedings.

The Minster provided a beautiful backdrop to this production and, it is great to see an ambitious and adventurous production being premiered in the Minster. Arts are on the up in Grimsby and Cleethorpes and it is hoped that many more such experiments will visit the town as a result.

Review by Andy Evans

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