Bread & Roses Theatre
Reviewed – 30th April 2019
“Black and Connaughton have fantastic chemistry and their conversations flow seamlessly”
Starved, a dark comedy written by and starring Michael Black and produced by Faded Ink Productions, explores the extremes that people are willing to go to when desperate. Faded Ink produce theatre that reflects working-class society and aims to represent communities and experiences that are not regularly shown in theatre and Starved is no exception.
Directed by Matt Strachan, Starved follows a young unnamed couple (Michael Black and Alana Connaughton) who are on the run for an initially unknown crime which forces them to squat in a bedsit in one of Hull’s roughest estates. They pass the time drinking, smoking and creating stories for the neighbours they can see out the window. They steal Rich Tea biscuits and Cup-a-Soup to survive, spending the little cash they do have on Glen’s Vodka.
Their relationship is highly toxic with conversations swinging from whispering sweet nothings to raging arguments in a matter of minutes. As the couple are slowly driven mad by their forced confinement, they start to consider whether it may just be easier to just face the consequences of their heinous actions.
The plot and script are strong, and a lot is packed into the short forty five minute running time. The couple discuss all manner of topics from their favourite childhood movies to the fictional rapper MC Devvo. The play however does end rather abruptly, and the plot could have perhaps benefitted from some expansion as it would have been interesting to delve further into the couple’s past and what led them to this squat.
The set is masterfully designed. The audience sits around a small rectangular stage which is enclosed by a web of rope to reflect the couple’s entangled entrapment. It is littered with rubbish, sleeping bags, cigarettes and a chair which creates a simple yet grotty environment. A rudimentary window is fashioned out of rope on one side and a large opening on another side acts as a doorway to the rest of the couple’s squatting complex. This helps open up the stage while simultaneously keeping the space confined.
There is little done with the lighting apart from at the play’s end where the set and actors are made overwhelming bright before a cut to black. The lighting is therefore very natural and keeps the play grounded in the harsh reality of this young couple. There are also no sound effects used in the play which keeps the audience’s focus on the yo-yoing conversations of the two squatters.
Black and Connaughton have fantastic chemistry and their conversations flow seamlessly. They joke, they argue, they kiss, and it is all thoroughly believable. Despite the short running time, their relationship is well explored, and the audience can sympathise with the cognitive tension between not wanting to be alone and staying in a toxic dynamic.
Starved is a powerfully intimate insight into a working-class couple’s struggle to survive in a system stacked against them and is well worth watching.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
Bread & Roses Theatre until 11th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: