CVIVArts' A Hunger Artist
As you all know, the amount of theatre becoming readily available online fills me with joy, and I love showcasing the work of other theatre artists!
Which is why I was so thrilled to receive a message from CVIVArts, inviting me to view and review their debut production of an absurdist take on Franz Kafka’s A Hunger Artist. Unfortunately, the touring shows were cancelled due to COVID-19, but the company has released a filmed version live on YouTube!
This Yorkshire-based production company was founded in 2019, focusing on ‘theatre of the experimental and the absurd.’
You can find more about them here: https://www.carrieannevivianette.co.uk
This production was based on Kafka’s 1922 short story of the same name.
It follows the story of an Artist, a professional faster, who will publicly lock himself in a cage to fast in front of large crowds. He works with a business manager, but always puts the integrity of his art form first. The cage is always guarded, and he only emerges to eat every forty days at the insistence of the manager. As he continues to lose interest from his spectators, the Artist leaves the manager and joins the circus as a sideshow attraction. There, without the protection of the manager, he exceeds his fasting limits, starving to death still without an audience.
The story captures the struggle of an artist, their passion and integrity for their craft, versus the way the world views and values the same art form.
This adaptation is written by Carrieanne Vivianette, with additional writing by Neil Rathmell. Vivianette also performs in the show as the Narrator alongside Henry Petch as the Hunger Artist and Richard Koslowsky as the Warder.
This was actually my first time seeing a piece of absurdist theatre!
So, for anyone like me, I wanted to include a little bit of information on this style of theatre. Plays which fall into the realm of absurdist theatre have a circular structure, and primarily focus on the theme of existentialism.
Honestly, this is one of the things I love the most about how much digital access to theatre which has come out of 2020! Not only is this a production from the U.K, but it’s also the kind of show I may not have had the opportunity to see, or would have gone to see otherwise.
This production of A Hunger Artist is raw and compelling. Every element comes together to serve the story, providing an intricate web which presents the bare truth of the story. It’s simply done, which is what makes it so beautiful.
A few of my favourite theatrical elements include the use of space, how the passage of time is showcased, and the use of silence. A large percentage of the show passes in silence, or with instrumental music playing, which is rare in theatre, but so brilliant when used how it is in this production.
The other element I thoroughly enjoyed was use of movement. Henry Petch, who plays the titular Hunger Artist, cleverly uses his body to demonstrate not only the Artist’s descent into starvation, but the desperation driving him to continue to connect with an audience.
What I adored about this piece is how real it was, despite being rooted in absurdist theatre.
It showcases the timeless struggle of the artist, but it is even more relevant this year. Theatres have closed, there aren’t many performance opportunities, and the audiences are rare and more difficult to find. Despite all of this, theatre artists need to create and perform, and luckily have found many new and exciting ways to fulfill this need.
CVIVArts’ A Hunger Artist was set to have a live performance in Salford on the 22nd, but due to new restrictions due to COVID-19, it is being postponed until July 2021.
Until then, you can watch their brilliant production here:
In the meantime, CVIVArts’ is starting workshops for a new Arts Council funded project in January called What Are You Hungry For?
You can find more information about the company on their website, and follow them on their social media below: