Bread & Roses Theatre, London – until 11 May 2019
The metaphoric webs human beings weave for themselves are often harsh and cruel. Lad and Lass are no stranger to these webs. While at the same time they have become closed off for self-preservation and focusing on primitive survival in order to make it through another day.
Stage imitates life and in the case of Starved the evidence is dressed as soon as you enter the theatre. As seen in the title photo, the stage with its untidy rope web allows the audience to see their life through the physical web as well as the couple battling on stage to free themselves from their mind webs.
Lad and Lass battle each other through the fear of losing one another while at the same time they battle their own hurt and fears from the damage created by their dysfunctional pasts. Their language is as raw and open as their bleak living arrangements.
The reality of People watching no matter where you are is a direct connection to the audience and a brilliant addition to this powerfully uncomfortable play. Many would probably feel disconnected from the alcoholism, starving and homelessness.
However, whether you admit it or not we all have our own “Ginger pubes”, “Baby eater” and “Teleport Boy” living down our street who exist in our minds with elaborate backstories. As we observe life going on around us every day.
Although their tough life in this squat is the main focus of this hard-hitting play, Lad’s speech about life outside makes you stop and think about the larger society. He claims “nobody is getting anything” and “being outside is pointless”. Just how pointless does life for someone have to become to begin to believe living in that “shit hole” is the best alternative.
Any actor who can share a cold can of Heinz Tomato Soup straight from the can certainly deserve credit for their dedication to their job. How either didn’t physically retch that point is beyond me.
The reality of their situation hits home towards the conclusion of the play when they discuss going to the police. The epiphany strikes them when they reach the conclusion that the people they are away running from are the same two people who are living in the squat. This is possibly more on a self-conscious awakening rather than an open admission once they both agree and decide to leave.
Personally, I would have liked a bit more information on why Lasses Nan was left at the bottom of the stairs and the circumstances as to how she got there. The bitter argument that ensues between the couple brings up abuse and controlling behaviour to the surface through the play. As in many cases of severe abuse, the victim will defend themselves to hide the pain as Lass goes onto do and lashes out at Lad.
Michael Black has succeeded in giving the audience an uncomfortable but realistic taste of life experienced by some people living in the North of England. Although not exclusively a demographic problem the play is set in Hull and regional areas are referred to. Yet another good example of the great work being performed within Pub Theatres at the present time.
Michael Black- Lad
Directed by Matt Strachan
Playing from 30th April to 11th May
Bread and Roses Theatre