Writer: Josh Luxenberg from Franz Kafka
Director: Joshua William Gelb
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
Is it entertaining to watch someone starve themselves? There once was a time when crowds would go to theatres simply to marvel at men who hadn’t eaten for up to forty days. The appeal eventually ended, and the hunger artist became a mere sideshow attraction. Franz Kafka’s story adapted by Josh Luxenberg and performed by Jonathan Levin, turns this dark subject matter into an inventive mixture of physical theatre, puppetry and opportunities for audience participation.
Opening with a knowing nod towards the cost of bringing a show to Edinburgh and the chances of ever seeing a return on your investment, Levin then morphs into an impresario recounting the tale of hunger artist shows with a stage model that has some of the front row changing their seats in order to see. Levin’s character realises the model is too small just around the time that the audience also realise that this part of the show has run out of steam.
Abandoning this recreation, he calls on members of the audience to take on the roles of impresario, doctors and women watching, as he turns himself into the hunger artist. The people selected all play their part in adding to the humour and surreality of the show, and the entertainment value goes up by several notches.
It goes up further still after they are dispensed with and, with the aid of two coats and two coat stands, Levin simultaneously becomes the hunger artist, the impresario and the circus manager who takes him on when he can no longer draw in crowds at the theatre. It’s visually superb, clever and amusing while also capturing the sadness and pathos of the story.
Nostalgic but modern, dark but with many light touches, it’s one of the most imaginative shows and performances at this year’s Fringe.
Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Contributed