Review: Hunger, E5 Bakehouse

“It’s been quite a while since I’ve had as ample a meal as this”

Starting off with a short reading from Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and ending with an outrageously generous two course meal, it is clear that Hobo Theatre’s Hunger is doing things slightly differently. Although that is clear from the outset as their production is hosted in the flour-dusted, characterful surroundings of the E5 Bakehouse, a top artisan bakery tucked away in a railway arch by London Fields. So the ingredients for a pretty tasty evening of theatre have all been put into place and if the proof is in the eating, well this is a great success.

Knut Hamsun’s 1890 novel Hunger is regarded a classic of modern literature in its tale of a writer’s determination to maintain artistic purity in the pursuit of his career even as it leads him into a life of impoverished starvation. Jamie Harper’s adaptation is really rather ingenious though, condensing the book into 75 minutes or so and doubling up on the way it doubles. Which is to say two actors take on many roles as the various people the writer meets on his journey, and then the other two both play the writer, his self becoming increasingly fractured as hunger drives him to desperation.

It’s a brilliant way of exploring the complexities of the mind of a soi-disant genius, a near-schizophrenic split between the artistic impulse to explore the human condition and the act of ignoring the realities of his own condition. Hugo Thurston and Jamie Harper embody both narrator and character, thought and action in constant interplay in a compelling mixture of a fascinating man and his trials – the fragile joy of a love affair, the stubborn pride that won’t let him accept charity, the desperation that leads him to consider the most extreme of actions.

Harriet Green and Andrei Ionescu as the multi-rolers are also great value for money, Ionescu’s gently strummed guitar, playing music arranged by himself, adds another texture to the production which revels in Emma Robinson’s rustic, simple design. The mix of tables swiftly converts into the dining area at the show’s end where copious amounts of freshly baked bread, cheese, steaming bowls of soup and slabs of gorgeous cake are served to satisfy our own hunger, embracing the communal feel of both dinner and drama in a most satisfying manner.

Running time: approx. 2 hours
Booking until 19th June

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