Let’s start things off by stating the obvious: Julie Hesmondhalgh is incredible. Her warmth and sparkle illuminates the stage and from the moment the lights go up we know we’re in for a fantastic show.
The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, written by Ian Kershaw, follows the residents of Preston Road as they navigate nosy neighbours, troublesome teens, heartbreak and, ultimately, find everlasting love. It’s a play set up to pull on your sentimental heartstrings, making you question what really matters. After the year we’ve all just had, there’s nothing more welcome than a heartwarming piece of writing that soothes like a hot chocolate with all the trimmings.
To individually carry an hour long play with no dialogue is a tremendous task – it requires a storytelling veteran to bring the tale to life and keep the audience on their toes. Hesmondhalgh does just that – breezing through the show with a confident ease, her pacing impeccable throughout.
Between them, Director Raz Shaw and Julie Hesmondhalgh have created the ultimate narrator. Hesmondhalgh has the audience crying with laughter, crying from poignancy and crying simply because we’re all here, together, in this wonderful theatre enjoying the journey she’s taking us all on.
The kind of narrative often suited to a one-woman show is overly-expositional, stuffy in places and puts the onus on the audience to use their imagination to plug in the gaps. The Greatest Play In The History Of The World rewrites the rulebook.
Who knew you could fall in love with a street full of characters who are only symbolised using a pair of shoes? As Hesmondhalgh introduces us to our main characters, Tom and Sara, we’re introduced to two pairs of slippers – yet these shoes are oh-so-telling. We meet high heels, brogues and trainers – all beautifully illustrating the characters whilst Hesmondhalgh sails through the narrative. Designer Naomi Kuyck-Cohen has absolutely played a blinder – it’s such a uniquely clever way to bring characters to life without the need for additional people or props.
I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say the show is phenomenal from start to finish. Heads up, though – try your best not to cry too soon as your mask doesn’t half get in the way!
The show runs until Saturday 5th June at York Theatre Royal. If you’re possibly able to make it along to see the show, I really would recommend it! Don’t miss out on this magically captivating production – a credit to every member of the creative team.
Photograph credited to Savannah Photographic