The competitive nature of youth, adolescent yearnings and the harm teenage inflict on both themselves and each other should be familiar reference points for most young people. These form the basis for theatre company Hungry Wolf’s new show Runts, a sensitive, sincere and occasionally harrowing view of teenage life. Once again championing new talent, the company brings the play to Brighton’s Marlborough Theatre on Thurs 12 – Sun 15 May, as part of 2016’s Fringe festival.
The creation of award-winning writer Izzy Tennyson, this visceral and striking work is set to shake up Brighton Fringe. “We’re open to working with anybody who is really exciting and imaginative. Curation is a really essential part of what we do,” says Hungry Wolf founder, Lora Munro. It takes a well-observed look at a volatile world. Although habitually filled with physical and emotional cruelty, often humour springs from the intense darkness.
With over 40 years shared experience of working with this demographic, Hungry Wolf encouraging a whole new generation of people to engage with the theatre. Starting in 2013, they’ve positioned themselves as one of the South East’s leading youth-focussed theatre companies with a range of innovative and relevant shows. They’re engaging with a new generation of theatregoers and developing Sussex’s most promising acting talent. Working with 16-21 year olds, the company has readdressed how youth theatre should be presented and perceived in the UK. “What we’re passionate about is providing uncompromising, brave and un-patronising new writing that revolutionises what’s on offer for young people.” Munro says she dislikes their work being labelled as ‘youth theatre’ though, as it doesn’t fit with what they do. Starting at a grassroots level they enable young actors to work with exciting new writers and amazing directors. Now momentum is building for the company, as they continue to bring edgy and revolutionary works to a growing audience.
The company have been regular fixtures at Brighton Fringe for a while, most recently bringing the critically acclaimed A Little Respect to the Marlborough Theatre. “The Brighton Fringe is a really interesting place right now, it’s becoming more exciting year on year.” Now Hungry Wolf’s fourth production, RUNTS brings together another range of young talent in a hard-hitting show. Whilst taking A Little Respect to Edinburgh, their attention was drawn to rising star Izzy Tennyson’s new show. Winner of 2015’s IdeasTap Underbelly Award, Brute was a sympathetic solo show written from a teenage perspective. This Soho Young Theatre writer seemed an ideal choice to approach about a collaboration. “Her writing is bang on point with what we’re doing. It’s really exciting for teens and adults as well…” The play is a natural progression from Brute, although echoes of the previous work remain. Once again we’re presented with a stirring glimpse of conflict and violence in an all-female environment. “It’s a snapshot of provincial, white-working class, failing school. It’s an insight into the complexity of female friendships, which is rarely exposed so graphically.”
Director Juliet Knight has recently worked on John at the National Theatre, previously directing the critically acclaimed White Boy with the National Youth Theatre. “She’s used to working with quite challenging texts, so she’s perfect for us.”
The company falls under the umbrella of Theatre Workshop, whose regular sessions offer classes in singing, dancing and acting to talented young performers. The workshop’s rich bank of talent has seen plenty of actors who have gone on to find work within the industry, previous alumina include Collabro’s Richard Hadfield and EastEnders cast members Hetti Bywater and Amy-Leigh Hickman.
By making young people part of the process, often things will be written around the performers. This showcases the actor’s personalities, offers more realistic characters and gives the cast ownership of the work. Marrying the South East’s most exciting young acting talent with brilliant creatives to craft new theatre gives raw and edgy results. “You want to present everything in an honest way. We want to make work that’s appealing but not sensationalised in any way. We have to consider how things are presented. Hopefully we are sensitive to that and hopefully the end result is positive.”