Edinburgh Fringe 2022: Hungry
In an interview with Isobel Lewis for the Independent back in June, Chris Bush estimated that by the end of the year she will have opened eight shows this year. At the Edinburgh Fringe alone, two are being put on: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World at the Pleasance and Hungry at Paines Plough’s Summerhall, an intimate venue with mood lighting in the round. It seems that Bush is competing only with the likes of Mike Bartlett – who had three plays on at the same time earlier this year – to be Britain’s most programmed playwright.
The cost of living and housing crises have hit the Fringe hard, meaning many people have been unable to attend, and those that are here may be coming for shorter periods of time. Money troubles inevitably limit the festival to a smaller population – only those who can afford to go – and this widens the pre-existing class gap. Hungry sneaks into these issues with provocative questions and asks to what extent social mobility is positive. Do we have to feel inadequate to aspire to move up in the world?
Eleanor Sutton plays Lori, a chef who came from nothing and dreams of oysters, organic produce and owning her own restaurant. She wants to get as far away from her roots as possible and tries to encourage her employee-cum-girlfriend Bex (played by Melissa Lowe) to do the same. The play moves between different times in their relationship, jumping back and forth non-chronologically.
It may come from a place of love, but Lori’s encouragement is controlling and the relationship is toxic. There is little tenderness in Katie Posner’s clean and almost clinical staging. An early moment sees the couple having sex in a quick musical scene change and then immediately begin talking about food and everyday things while standing on opposite sides of the stage. They rarely hug and there is nearly always a physical distance between them. At times, the play feels more like an intellectual debate than an exploration of a romantic relationship: it is thought-provoking but takes away from the humanity of the story.
Having said that, scene changes are punctuated by sudden mood shifts, which are compellingly written and acted, and underscored by Rajiv Pattani’s well-executed lighting design. The emotional shifts are also linked by the actors moving two industrial kitchen counters on wheels. These form Lydia Denno’s somewhat underused set design – they are stacked with dishes that do not get touched until an explosion of food at the end. The bare set and the untouched crockery may be directorial choices, but they give the piece a sense that something is missing.
Similarly, the actors deliver lines slightly too quickly and slickly so at times the speech does not quite sound spontaneous. This, coupled with the sparse set and a dialogue-heavy script, means you leave the theatre overloaded with depressing, heavy thoughts. They may be relatable – many of us know what it is like to be in controlling relationships, feel inadequate and have unattainable aspirations – but it feels a little too bogged down in the murkiness of “everything is terrible”. The intellectual debate is interesting, but Hungry lacks some tenderness and warmth.
Hungry is at Summerhall from 3rd August until 28th August 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
For further information about Edinburgh Fringe 2022 visit the festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Hungry here: