Review: hunger by Wanton Theatre

Tension and a gorgeous score in this precise production

musicals review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 06 Aug 2018

One of the warnings for this new opera is for "hostile harmonic texture", and on this point it certainly delivers. hunger considers what it means to be a female artist through the lens of a mother’s struggle to be taken seriously in her work while also looking after her family. She can attempt to perfect her home life but her reputation and artistic legacy are factors outside of her control.

Wanton Theatre’s production thrives on tension and controls it expertly through movement, a gorgeous score and beautiful gliding harmonies. Framed by a chorus of men dressed in black who are everpresent but not always involved, this short opera is urgent and precise. The musicians navigate the show's unconventional pieces of music skilfully, as do the performers.

hunger is a series of questions spiralling downwards into anger. It feels incredibly welcome. Welcome too is a central woman emoting against sexist inequalities, rather than having to explain why she’s disadvantaged and how she feels as a preface to her entirely justified rage. The rare spoken lines tend to take some of the energy away from the piece, and it loses momentum whenever the tension drops. We’re not always sure what is happening, and while this semi-dream is a beautiful liminal space, it doesn’t sit comfortably alongside the statements about being an artist or a woman artist, which are restated, but never developed. 

hunger is a brief step into a world that would benefit from being expanded, but you've got to applaud the originality and precision with which these 30 minutes have been constructed.