Hungering is not what it used to be. Time was when a hunger artist at the top of his game could earn a very good living. But now the appetite for public starvation is in decline across Europe. The spectacle of a man in cage going without food for forty days has fallen out of fashion. Audiences have drifted away.
Such is the lament of the sunken-faced, dishevelled impresario in shabby clothes who wheels the remnants of his travelling show onto the stage. He addresses the meagre audience, asks a man how much he has paid for his ticket. He does the arithmetic. Today he will lose money. Again.
The impresario elaborates on the heyday of hungering, using a miniature theatre to explain the mechanics of the show. The hunger artist is monitored around the clock by three butchers to make sure there is no cheating. At the end of his ordeal, he is carried out and fed by two fashionable ladies. Members of the audience are called up onto the stage to fill these supporting roles. And then the hunger artist himself is revealed, gaunt, hollow-eyed and expressionless, just sitting there in his cage.
In the final part of the story, the great artist is reduced to being just another freak in a circus sideshow. Ignored and overlooked, away from gawping spectators and without external constraints, the artist is finally free to explore the limits of his art.
A Hunger Artist is an artful, darkly atmospheric staging of Franz Kafka’s 1922 short story which is ideal material for a one-man show. The protracted audience participation is just a bit too silly and distracting, but there is some wonderful business using two hat-stands as characters, and the final scene, which is both touching and powerful, has a strange, stark beauty.
Until August 28 (not 15, 22), 17:45, Age 12+