Theatre review: Guts! The Musical

Our theatre reviewer, Sam Sims, shares his thoughts on Guts! The Musical at Hull Truck Theatre.

The Community Cast of Guts! The Musical. All images: Tom Arran Photography.

We’re told pretty early on in Guts! The Musical, Hull Truck’s latest theatre production, that the events you’re about to see aren’t completely true, but the story of a group of 15 women who worked in a Hull fish packing factory in the 80s and fought for and got equal pay, certainly is. This is a lively, vibrant, entertaining and empowering show that’s perfect for these, shall we say, politically heated times.

Guts! is a co-production with Hull Maritime, written by Maureen Lennon, directed by Tom Saunders and performed by Hull Truck’s tremendously talented community theatre group. Many of the cast have never been on stage before, much less been part of a full-blown musical and it’s such a joy to see them getting stuck in and having so much fun. There’s a vast ensemble, who, when all on stage together (particularly at the very beginning and end of the show) look so impressive. It’s quite an overwhelming sight to behold – but in the best possible way, and you really feel their energy. It’s infectious. 

The key members of the cast are all amazing and are a huge part in making the show the success that it is. Real standouts are Sarah Hurst’s Brenda – she gets an emotional ballad in which she questions what went wrong with her marriage and Fred Weeks’ Union boss, Keith, who also gets a solo, albeit a slightly different one. If you’re a fan of rock operas/ musicals, you’re going to love that. 

If you’re also a fan of the 80s – big hair, bright lights and epic music, then this is also a show for you. The tunes – by Joe Roper are bound to get stuck in your head hours after the show has ended and Ella Barraclough’s set and costumes, combined with Jessie Addinall’s lighting work really put you in the thick of the action. I found the white uniforms that our ladies adorn at work probably the most impactful in setting the scene.

So whilst the events in Guts! may not be exactly true – and we’re reminded of this again as the show concludes – the real-life women did ultimately achieve what they did because they believed in themselves and in each other and they saw the value of their work despite being told they were worthless and less important than their male co-workers. That is both inspiring and empowering. 

But we’re also reminded that just because ‘things are better’, doesn’t mean that unequal pay isn’t still very much apparent in a huge array of industries across the world. Is there a way we can continue to push the pay gap until it finally salmons off? Yes, but you’ll have to see the show to find out, and if your experience is anything like mine, it will bring the house down. 

[Sam Sims – Theatre reviewer]

Guts! The Musical runs at Hull Truck Theatre until Saturday 6 July.