A Hunger Artist (Kafka Adaptation)
- Irina Glinski
- 8 August 2017
This article is from 2017
Kafka becomes a metaphor for the art of performance
A Hunger Artist is the name of a short story by Franz Kafka, but it could also be the tagline for a whole lineage of 20th-century performance art. Adapted for the stage by Josh Luxenberg, the eponymous hunger artist makes his living through self-deprivation, travelling across Europe to perform his 40-day starvation act for enthralled crowds.
A moth-eaten, eerily pale-faced and heavily padded Jonathan Levin emerges through the curtain pushing a trunk full of props. This is an impresario from a bygone age, and as he pulls out his tiny box theatre and wind-up gramophone, he draws the audience in to this witty, enchanting and macabre tale.
Levin then turns the tables, re-enacting the performance of the hunger artist. Full of artistic integrity and stripped of his bloated padding, he transforms in to a fragile caged creature. Members of the audience are brought on stage to become participants in the nauseating spectacle, portraying doctors taking measurements of the emaciated artist and witnesses to his feat of endurance.
Levin is an agile physical performer, jumping between his multiple roles with clarity and precision. This is a mesmerising, uncanny piece of work. Considered within the intense context of the Fringe, Levin's portrayal of the dangerous path towards artistic self-destruction feels uncomfortably familiar.
ZOO, until 28 Aug (not 15, 22), 5.45pm, £11.00 (£9.00).