When chef Lori meets Bex, who is waiting tables, a romantic clinch in a walk-in fridge marks the start of a tumultuous relationship. Exploring themes of class, queerness and cultural appropriation, Hungry is a thought-provoking play that leaves plenty to be digested.
Eleanor Sutton and Melissa Lowe give strong performances as the mismatched couple, with Sutton’s Lori initially awkward and unsure in stark contrast to Lowe’s self-assured Bex. As the piece progresses, however, there is a marked shift in the power balance, with Lori’s seeming desire to help Bex “better herself” taking on a controlling and oppressive tone.
The play takes place in two time periods. One that chronicles their meeting and developing relationship, while the other shows a future point where their differences have taken on a harder, more combative edge. The result is a relationship that is simultaneously growing and disintegrating, eventually colliding in a final, explosive confrontation. Katie Posner’s staging is clear and precise, with slick scene changes and deliberate movements. With just two kitchen trolleys forming the set, the actors clash them together at each change of time, building the tension and distance between them.
While each performer inhabits their character fully, at times there is a lack of connection between the two, perhaps due to the non-linear narrative. It can be hard to fully empathise, particularly with Lori, whose apparently well-meaning gestures rarely feel anything but uncomfortable or ill-judged, eventually spilling over into outright racist and classist attitudes. Chris Bush has packed a lot of themes and observations into this 70-minute piece, and at times it feels one course has not had a chance to be metabolised before the next is on the table. That said, the pithy asides and overarching commentary on the role of food in our lives, our relationships and our communities are well-observed and written.
Hungry is certainly unflinching, with Bex’s blistering final monologue cutting to the heart of cultural appropriation, shame, addiction and food poverty. A searing social commentary that cannot be denied.
By Deborah Klayman
Hungry plays at Summerhall, Edinburgh until 28th August 2022 (not August 16th or 23rd).
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