Venue: Paradise in the Vault
Star rating: ****
Reviewer: Sarah MacDonald
Joanna Ward and Ryan Hay’s hunger concisely explores the struggles of an artist as she contends with societal pressure to conform to the role of “mother”, and is further frustrated by the fact that her artwork is viewed as that of a “female artist” and that her art is not valued for its own merit. The frustration from Kafka’s original work is mirrored well here. An unhappiness and emptiness prompted by the artist’s dwindling fame and her lack of fulfilment in motherhood, despite a deep love for her children, starts to unravel an array of interesting themes. The show loops around itself as the woman is exposed to her reputation as an artist being eviscerated despite her every attempt to create order and beauty in her home – it is not enough.
The production is orchestrated beautifully to match the tension, frustration and claustrophobia of the artist’s internal experience. The discordant harmonies and other movements are expertly conducted and crafted by the small ensemble of musicians. Each voice adds to the complex tale that is weaved throughout the narrative of hunger. The physical arrangement of the performers in each scene creates palpable tensions and allows the scenes to transition smoothly in the confined space.
From a feminist perspective, the play does not allow the artist to resolve her discontent as is the case for Kafka’s hunger artist. Instead there is a restatement of the woman’s chagrin about the sexist expectations from the art world and of motherhood. It opens up a narrative in which the central character is able to express genuine resentment and rage without looking to spell out to the audience how these themes are experienced across society in a system which is rigged against women and other groups who face discrimination.
The production is a sharp, precise and jarring experience. In thirty-short–minutes it opens up a dialogue regarding the treatment and expectations of women. However, a longer piece would not lose momentum, it may in fact better serve an exploration of these themes.