EdFringe 2023 Review: The Hunger ★★★★

“Fraught familial dynamics amidst a context of creeping horror, depicted with impressively complex performances and tense, claustrophobic staging helps The Hunger shine.”

Black Bright Theatre Company present mother-daughter kitchen-sink drama meets apocalyptic horror in The Hunger playing as part of the Assembly Festival this Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Directed by Natalie Simone and written by Madeleine Farnhill, The Hunger presents impressively-scripted female characters and horror drenched in a grimy realism.

Hauled up in a Yorkshire Dales farmhouse, mother and daughter Deborah and Megan have developed something of a self-sufficient life, closed off from the growing horrors and dangers of the outside world as a pandemic sparked by animal meat takes hold. On guard from the threat of infected outsiders, the pair’s fragile dynamic is put under increasing threat from low rations, encroaching disease, and continual danger.

The Assembly’s George Square Studios stage sees a small rustic kitchen table, an imposing rifle, and makeshift wooden shutters fill the space, establishing the claustrophobic canvas for this grimy kitchen-sink horror. From its earliest moment, a sense of clammy tension is quickly instigated with a blood-curdling scream breaking the serenity of a sombre Willie Nelson tune. The pace continues to run fast from this moment onwards, with director Simone inventively keeping us on edge.

The relationship between Deborah and Megan is placed under the microscope. Deborah, the matriarch unafraid to make difficult (and often violent) choices for the sake of her family’s survival; Megan is more unsettled, struggling to survive on the farm’s own uninfected meat and less willing to get behind her mother’s cutthroat manner of handling outsiders. The feuding nature of these two different personalities provides much of the narrative ground for The Hunger. With these two larger-than-life personalities, the claustrophobic energy of the farmhouse set feels heightened and growingly uneasy – particularly as the pair butt heads.

The Hunger cleverly stages moments of horror with confidence. Some of the most engaging scenes see Megan talk to a child hungry for scraps on the farm grounds, ignoring her mother’s direct instructions to shoot any trespassers. Like many others, these scenes showcase Farnhill’s skill as an actress, whilst Helen Fullerton packs a growingly desperate intensity into the role of Deborah. Both performers bounce off each other well – convincingly crafting a complex and challenging mother-daughter dynamic.

Fans of the horror genre whether in theatre or cinema will be well-versed in themes of plague-ridden zombies, yet The Hunger explores these in a grounded fashion – avoiding lashings of gore and prosthetics in favour of focusing on the tense psychological dynamic between mother and daughter.

Fraught familial dynamics amidst a context of creeping horror, depicted with impressively complex performances and tense, claustrophobic staging helps The Hunger shine.

The Hunger runs until August 28th. Tickets can be booked here.

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