Simply titled “Hunger”, director Fay Lomas delves into the psychological turmoil as this primal instinct comes face-to-face with ambition. What sacrifices are we willing to make for our dreams? Although the production is based on the 1890 novel written by modernist Knut Hamsun, it displays a shocking relevance to the present.
What unfolds in this intimate studio is a story that cuts at the heart and mind of an aspiring writer in his struggle to succeed. It becomes clear that this nameless writer is not limited by his talent, rather by the resounding rejection from the bustling metropolis. One by one, his friendships, career, and grasp of reality begin to crumble as Hunger takes over.
The writer’s desire to flourish is a craving to which we can all relate. When we hear accounts of the painful climb to success, it can easily go over our heads as those experiences are often brief and irrefutably one-in-a-million. As the story enters its second half, the city itself grows a character: an unforgiving, hungry predator that begins to swallow the failing writer whole.
Kwami Odoom as the protagonist shines with an earnest energy. He portrays a driven albeit naïve individual at the cusp of his dreams, whose sense of self gradually unravels. As we watch this happen, we realise the extent of which we depend on our career for purpose. For the most part, the performance is mesmerising. However, the downwards spiral to insanity is highly abstract. Portraying this in theatre is bold, and there are moments which simply do not work and sometimes detach you from the scene.
Without prior knowledge to the original text, the ending can come across as abrupt and unexpected. But the rest of the performance is so well rehearsed and precise that it is as much a choreography as it is a play. It is a real pleasure to watch each step of the four actors as deliberate as the last.
This production is a ruthless, finely tuned tale of the harsh reality of pursuing a pipe dream. Small productions such as these have the freedom to stay faithful to the source text, and it is shameful how much it still rings true. Knut Hamsun in this modern age would be disgraced for his perverse views on race and politics. Despite this, “Hunger” remains powerfully relevant and thought-provoking, and an especially important tale for any aspiring student.