One of Philip Larkin’s most famous poems will come to life on its 50th anniversary for an audience travelling by train to London.
Whitsun Weddings described Larkin’s slow journey from Hull to Kings Cross London on a hot and humid Whitsun Saturday afternoon in 1955.
At each stop the poet slowly becomes aware of the newly-weds boarding the train for their honeymoon, the girls “in parodies of fashion, heels and veils”, “mothers loud and fat” and “an uncle shouting smut.”
Hull-based theatre company Ensemble 52 is recruiting actors to board the train as couples starting as the First Hull Train pulls out of Hull on June 6. Along the way more couple board in Brough, Doncaster, Grantham and Retford, “waved off” by their families, played by local theatre groups.
Between the unavoidable tannoy announcements the audience riding in two carriages will hear the couples’ stories as well as exclusive readings of four poems by the actor Bill Nighy.
Artistic director Andrew Pearson said they wanted to encapsulate the highs and lows of marriage with five very different couples. He said: “Inbetween their 10 to 15 minute performances we will be playing the soundtrack that Bill Nighy has very kindly recorded for us, which will never be heard again. He is a member of the Larkin Society and I just think he loves the poetry.”
Once in London, the Larkin Society has organised the unveiling of a plaque at Kings Cross by the sculptor Martin Jennings, who created the statue in Hull’s Paragon Station in 2010.
High Sheriff of Hull Virginia Bottomley will perform the honours.