BWW Review: STARVED, The Hope Theatre
In a pitiful bedsit in one of the roughest estates in Hull, Lad and Lass are found surviving on a diet of vodka and cigarettes. The unfortunate circumstances and an already toxic relationship push them to the brink on a daily basis, binding them to each other and to the realisation that they might not be able to endure such a broken life.
Michael Black writes a gut-wrenching tale of emotional (and factual) starvation. The partially autobiographical subject is crisp in its genuineness and overwhelming in its delivery. The actor and writer teams up with Alana Connaughton to tell his story and, as directed by Matt Strachan with meticulous tempo and sensitivity, Starved presents an uneasy reality.
The actors are caged by Esteniah Williams's set: ropes become walls they can't tear down, trapping them figuratively and effectively. While the design reflects their mental state and makes for a stirring visual metaphor, Black and Connaughton offer intense performances that need no embellishments.
The well-paced script gives them all the beats needed for them to make their point. Nicola Chang amps up the underlying anxiety with an assertive sound design that accompanies the couple through all the signs of toxic co-dependency and emotional abuse.
Starved is a feverish portrayal of the modern fight for survival with Lad and Lass being characterised by their inwardness. They found themselves in the bedsit out of natural instinct, their actions being kicked off by their willingness to stay alive. Their isolation might be voluntary but it's forced in its foundation, dictated by a horrific system of toxicity.
Their life has become their own, hellish Groundhog Day. As much as they might want to escape their routine of petty crime and drinking, this is impossible to them. There are mental as well as tangible obstacles too difficult to surmount that only add to their own unhealthy practices.
They know how to hurt each other and how to navigate through the callous mechanisms that make each other tick. Black's play is vivid in its striking realism, portraying a destructive vicious circle that simmers with the magnitude of its performances.
Photo credit: lhphotoshot