On the face of it, Chris Bush’s new play could simply be viewed as a fresh take on class. In reality, Hungry has more layers than a millefeuille, tackling a diverse range of topics including love, love language, class, culture, ethnicity, sexuality, addiction and, of course, food.
The set-up is thus – laidback waitress Bex meets passionate, driven chef Lori. Bex loves chicken nuggets and Pot Noodles, Lori is acutely aware of the difference between a mousse and a marquise. During an hour and ten minutes we move back and forth in time, observing the peaks and troughs in their relationship – two people who find love with someone so unlike them, trying to assimilate and be assimilated into each other’s worlds. The time-hopping can be confusing, especially in the earlier scenes as you try to establish the wider plot, but the dialogue is superb and riveting from start to finish. Eleanor Sutton as Lori and Melissa Lowe as Bex deliver captivating performances of characters that are complex and not always entirely likable, but perfectly portrayed such that in a short space of time you feel that you know and understand the motivations of both.
With stalls on all sides of the stage, Sutton and Lowe are reliant on two catering trollies to create difference scenes – the changes are fluid and dramatic when needed, beautifully choreographed and smooth. The slight disadvantage of the four sided set up is that the smaller space leaves the audience quite exposed, and I found the lighting quite harsh and the awareness of my fellow audience members somewhat distracting. That said, Hungry for me was so much more about what was said – or not said – than seen.
Lori’s experience of food has shaped her into the person that she has become; she remembers the first time she tried oysters, aged 14 on a family holiday in France, and seeks to inspire in others the kind of passion for food and the finer things in life that she is accustomed to. Bex has grown up in a different world, a world where things are frozen, where food is not decadent but in many ways shameful – this, too has shaped her view of the world and she is cynical, exasperated by Lori’s eagerness to involve her in a world that she doesn’t know that she wants to belong in. It reminded me of Jane Austen’s Emma and the protagonist’s relationship with her new friend Harriet Smith. Harriet is from another world to Emma and is in love with famer Robert Martin. Emma wants to lift her friend above her social station and… well, we all know what happens there. But the age old struggle is as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago.
Hungry also really made me reflect on the different ways we show and receive love in relationships – ‘love language’ as my therapist tells me it’s called – and the importance of how that is communicated. There’s so much to like about this production, and I’d happily recommend it to anyone – and would love to discuss it with them afterwards!
Runs until 30th July at Soho Theatre – https://sohotheatre.com/shows/hungry/#pricing-availability
Reviewer: Zoё Meeres
Reviewed: 13th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★