THIS is the first theatre event of Hull’s UK City of Culture 2017 celebrations, and while the focus should be on Hull, it would be remiss of a York newspaper not to bang the drum for our city’s prominent involvement in the Hull Truck and Royal Shakespeare Company co-production.

So, here goes. York actor Mark Addy plays the duplicitous lead, 17th century MP Sir John Hotham, while Martin Barrass, Hull-born but an institution in the York Theatre Royal pantomime, makes his first stage appearance since last year’s life-threatening motorcycle crash as Lord Mayor Barnard, wig, wispy beard and all. Oh, and the production team of director Phillip Breen and designer Max Jones were responsible for last summer’s York Minster Mystery Plays.

The Hypocrite is not quite on that epic scale, but nevertheless Breen still has a cast of 21 under his charge, a rarity on a Yorkshire repertory stage and one of the prime reasons to celebrate Hull’s elevation to City of Culture status and the Premier League power of the RSC.

The bad news is that the Hull Truck run has sold out already – just like King Charles I, you won’t be able to enter Hull – but a trip to Stratford is recommended. Not least because a Yorkshire presence in the audience might assist with triggering laughter for the more parochial Hull references, be they the colours of the Rugby League team from west Hull or a road name.

York Press:

Martin Barrass, right, as Lord Mayor Barnard and Rowan Polonski as Prince Rupert in The Hypocrite. Picture: Duncan Lomax, RSC

Then again, surely part of the joy of Hull’s year in the cultural limelight is to export Hull as much as to import visitors to the city. Where once it was Alan Plater and John Godber putting Hull on the playwrights’ map, more recently it has been Richard Bean and Tom Wells, and The Hypocrite is a gloriously raucous hymn to Hull by the prolific Bean.

His story is rooted in the history of Hull: the first city to refuse entry to King Charles I as the English Civil War looms. Here Bean takes his One Man, Two Guvnors template, with Addy’s Hotham in the pay of both the Parliamentarians and the King, and makes merry with shades of Blackadder, Dario Fo, Fawlty Towers’s Basil and Sybil and Bean’s past in anarchic stand-up comedy.

Addy’s verbal jousts with Caroline Quentin as Hotham’s wife number five are but one of the multiple pleasures of a frantic, ribald farce that makes for one Hull of a riotous show.

The Hypocrite, Hull Truck Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, Hull Truck Theatre, until March 23; Swan Theatre, RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, from March 31 to April 29. Box office: Hull, for returns only, 01482 323638 or; Stratford, 01789 403493.