Review: Jack Lear at Hull Truck

[Lights go up to reveal daytime magazine show studio two presenters sat at a polished wooden desk. in front of a set decorated with fishing nets and buoys. On a screen there is a picture of a wizened man with tangled grey beard in a sou’wester.]

Welcome to the programme. I’m Sally Sharp, I’m joined by my co-host Lucy Gold.

[Audience applause]

Lucy Gold: Hello everyone, to you here inside the True Life studio and especially to all you watching at home.

Sally Sharp: In today’s show we are going to be talking about an old sea captain…’

Lucy Gold:  Actually Sally he’s a trawler skipper from Hull in East Yorkshire called Jack Lear. Over the years he’s done pretty well for himself and there-in lies the problem. How to fairly divide his wealth amongst his children.

Sally: Just how many of you out there have struggled with how to divide up the family silver hey? We are not talking about inheritance tax today: that’s a whole other show.  Just the bare bones of how to go about deciding who gets what?

Lucy: So it used to be that property and goods and titles would be passed down to the first born son… the only way for a girl to get ahead was to go into service or marry.  And what do we think of that then?

[Chorus of boos and protests from largely female studio audience]

Barry Rutter as Jack Lear at Hull Truck Theatre Photo: Nobby Clark

Sally: This one is so… I’m welling up already. So Jack, the hardworking trawler man, his wife dies at a young age. I know, I know. Leaving poor Jack to bring up his three precious children, Morgana, Freda and Victoria all by himself.

Lucy: And what and upbringing. We will find out later just how he dealt with the demands of bringing up three girls.

There was no male heir so he would have to divide up all his fortune from insuring the best cod on the table on a Friday between the by now grown women.

For now Let’s examine that fortune made from catching fish and ensuring the country had the best fish and chips every Friday.

Sally: Ooh can’t beat a nice bit of fish, and nowadays you don’t have to wait till friday do you.

Lucy: [raising her eyebrows at her co-host some what]

In his lifetime Jack Lear had amassed a considerable amount and had known enough to make sure to have all financial concerns set down on paper; namely deeds of ownership for two trawler boats and a pleasure yacht.

[Crescendo of ooohs and aaahhs from the audience]

Lucy: Jack Lear also owned three properties: first a considerable family home, a cottage retreat, and last but not least a mill. By today’s standards he was a millionaire.

Sally: A three-day millionaire

Lucy: Indeed it was common practice for the crews to have three days on shore between trips to sea, where, they would spend their wages like a man with no arms. Particularly splashing the cash around the town buying flash new suits. Just look at this image of Jack Lear during shore leave.

Sally: He would have been the talk of the town parading around all the nightspots. Going out dancing looking sharp as a tack, catch the eye of some young girl….

[Sally’s mind wanders into some fanciful reverie]

Lucy: Landlords would put a 100 pints on the bar top ready for them as they came home. These were hard-working, hard-living men who knew that the very next time they went to sea it could be their last.

Sally: Ooh Lucy lovey, it gives me the chills… Now remember we said poor old Jack had lost the love of his life, mum to his three lovely girls Morgana, Freda and Victoria, well that’s not all he lost was it Lucy?

Lucy: No, no it wasn’t, sadly Jack Lear was also beginning to lose his grip on reality. All those years at sea, the excessive drinking and rough living, it is entirely possible that Jack was facing early-onset dementia. Which, as many of you will know from experience, raises the very real issue of his future care, and power of attorney.

Sally: That sounds very official.

Lucy: It’s important to remember that Jack had deeds drawn up of all his property on paper: the bricks and the boats. And he was clear in his mind as to how to divide them up, on the proviso that the three daughters would look after him in his old age.

[Sally nods sagely amidst a low murmuring from the audience]

Sally: Jack had a startling approach to parenting didn’t he?

Lucy: Did he ever, remember he and his wife didn’t have any boys: boys who would have joined their father in the family trade as soon as they were out of short trousers. To get around this problem Jack just decided to bring his girls up as boys: they wore oilskin frocks and thigh-high boots on deck. He treats them as he would any member of the crew: he even gives them boys’ names.

Sally: Freda became Fred and Morgana became Morgan. But what of Victoria the youngest daughter?

Lucy: She stayed home did all the housework and ran the household.

Sally: [incredulously] And he took, Fred and Morgan out to sea with him?

Lucy: He did that. As soon as they were old enough to be useful, he had them hauling nets, chipping ice, gutting fish and enduring the harshest conditions imaginable.

Sally: What, young girls, his own daughters, in amongst the crew? Where did they sleep?

Lucy: Not much time for sleeping on board a trawler fishing in Icelandic waters. It’s all hands on deck and get the fish on ice and stowed away in the hold. [smiles] And, it is said that Jack was known to alter the time clock, so the crew would actually get less time at rest in their bunks, than they should have had.

[More murmurs of disapproval from the audience]

Sally: Isn’t it true that by age twelve Morgan had become quite the… the trawler man herself, and even taken charge of a ship and crew and got it out of danger.

Lucy: A formidable character indeed. As was Freda. And being the two daughters living and working side by side with their father, knowing who’s who and what’s what, naturally rivalries begin to grow: each desperate to be in daddy’s favour. Jack Lear is by now a considerably wealthy man, with a name and reputation to match. And he had a very particular way for these rivalries to be settled.

Sally: Oh really?

Lucy: Yes really? He would encourage the two to stand firm, stand their ground and go at it with swords, there and then on deck. And go at it they did.

[Audience gasps of amazement and horror]

Lucy: There were rules. Jack Lear liked rules. The two weren’t to draw blood, just clash the blades together and use their strength to push the others blade down into the wood, to settle the score.

Sally: It is important to remind viewers that we in no way, do advocate the use of swords to settle your differences. And furthermore that we here on Daytime find Jack’s methods criminal and barbaric.

For legal matters we recommend finding yourself a reputable solicitor. The Lear women had a solicitor didn’t they Lucy?

Lucy: Ahh Edmund. Edmund was, what we would commonly refer to as a bad-boy-about-town. He was a young, cocksure legal eagle, who used his charm and fancy ways, as well as the Lear women’s naivety in matters of business, to inveigle his way into their lives and more.

Sally: We don’t recommend a solicitor like Edmund do we Lucy?

Lucy: Indeed we do not. Even if he’s good looking, dressed to the nines, a good mover to boot, do not, whatever you do, fall for the Edmunds of this world.

Sally: So who comes out best in this story?

Lucy: Certainly not Jack because of his cruel and unusual treatment of his daughters. Remember that right at the start Victoria had cast doubts and sown suspicion over the division of the pile. She had a young chap she was seeing that she intended to marry. Jack had been none too pleased with the idea of her having a man other than him she would look up to, and love more than he.

Sally: And famously she said she would ‘rid her hands of the Lear stink.’

Lucy: Yes she did, but then later went back on this declaration to disown the Lear name and spent months fighting for what she thought was rightfully hers.

Sally: It is a real mess isn’t it. See what can happen when it is time to divide the family silver?

Lucy: With Jack increasingly intoxicated, locked out of both Morgana’s and Freda’s newly inherited homes – who it must be said are both living the highlife like there’s no tomorrow…

Sally: Who can blame them really, they’ve had a terrible life and suffered at the hands of a tight-fisted bully of a father, and then all of a sudden they net [smiles] a huge windfall, so that they might never have to work again. And young Edmund on the prowl, sniffing around the pair of them two newly minted lambs. It’s bound to lead to trouble.

Lucy: And it does and how. Tune in next week where we will find the once shunned Victoria offering an olive branch to her increasingly bewildered father, and Morgana and Freda on a dangerous heading that will bring them into deadly conflict. The Lears the family more stormy than the North Sea.

[Audience cheers and applauds. Sally and Lucy exchange accusatory looks, just before the lights completely fade to black out Lucy appears to have something in her hand, which she swings towards Sally’s head]

Jack Lear written by Ben Benison starring Barrie Rutter in the title role runs at Hull Truck Theatre until 2 Feb. The chance of popular daytime show True Life being aired again looks doubtful…

Full Cast:

Andy Cryer as Edmund

Sarah Naughton as Freda

Olivia Onyehara as Victoria

Nicola Sanderson as Morgana

Barrie Rutter as Jack Lear

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