For most of us, hunger usually amounts to getting a bit peckish after accidentally skipping our breakfast Cheerios. I’ll wager you’ve never been so hungry you decided to munch on your little finger.
Those are the depths to which the unnamed protagonist sinks in Knut Hamsun’s 1890 novel, here adapted by Hobo Theatre. The book is about a journey through the streets of Oslo made by a poor, destitute, and very, very hungry writer. So hungry that at one point he chows down on a digit.
Hearing about all this famishment provokes the odd stomach growl, but luckily the prospect of some hearty nosh isn’t far away. Hobo chooses to perform in non-theatre spaces and here the company have struck gold – or the bread equivalent. ‘Hunger’ takes place in the pastry area of excellent London Fields-based artisan bakery E5. Afterwards, you’re treated to a hearty meal of some beautiful loaves, potent cheese, warming soup, refreshing schnapps and a delicious desert.
The show, bravely getting between a ravenous audience and its banquet, does an admirable job of trying to be the night’s main event. The lucid, modern adaptation of Hamsun’s often surreal text has moments of real poetry. Jamie Harper’s staging is simple and clever and the restrictive space is used very well, with the action weaving between the audience’s benches. Harper and Hugo Thurston each play the nameless main character, both on stage at the same time, which gives a nice energy to the otherwise straightforward retelling.
The story gets repetitive – he’s hungry, he manages to write an article, he gets money, he spends it, he gets hungry etc – but at times the show does manage to evoke the tussle between a restless, creative mind and a body’s basic, confining needs.
Accompanied by some atmospheric folk music from Andrei Ionescu ‘Hunger’ is good, but the supper is the real star.