Starved: Q&A with Michael Black

Following a short run at the Bread and Roses in May, Michael Black’s award-nominated play, Starved, transfers to the Hope Theatre next month. A grimly realistic portrayal of life below the poverty line, the third production from new writing company Faded Ink is directed by Matt Strachan, with Michael reprising his role as Lad alongside Alana Connaughton’s Lass.

The Starved team will be hoping to repeat the success of the show’s previous run, which earned several five-star reviews and a nomination for London Pub Theatre’s Standing Ovation Award. Michael chatted to Theatre Things about introducing Lass and Lad to new audiences, and why it’s so important for people to hear their story.

Can you sum up briefly what Starved is all about?

Starved is a two-hander set in a scruffy bedsit on a council estate in Hull. It’s a character driven story about a couple on the run, with hard hitting themes such as mental health, poverty, addiction, toxic relationships. Starved also has a lot of comedy, fast paced and witty Yorkshire humour.

Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

The play is semi-autobiographical and based on my life growing up in Hull. I wanted to really turn the heat up on these characters and look at what people can be driven to when they feel isolated. When they feel like they have no meaningful purpose or place in society. Starved is based on things I’ve heard, seen, been through, but taken to that extreme.

Why do you feel is this story an important one for you to tell, and for a London audience to hear? And why is now the right time to tell it?

I wanted to put a Northern working class story on a London stage. The North of England feels under represented in Theatre, which is a shame because the people I’ve met and stories I’ve heard would make for really gripping and exciting new work. People I’ve spoken to are feeling scared, alone, pissed off, not listened to, ignored etc, especially in areas like where I grew up. I feel a story such as Starved can help break that London bubble slightly and show that there is a whole other way that people are forced to live, which might go some way in explaining the current divide.

What do you hope that audiences will take away from seeing the play?

I hope a sense of understanding that there are people out there that are having a really shit time of it. If we can be more compassionate towards those that have fallen under then hopefully we can start a conversation about how we can work together to see eye to eye. Also, I hope it’s refreshing to see a play set in Hull.

What are you most looking forward to about reviving the play at the Hope?

Really excited to work with a new group of people, we’ve got new designers and stage manager etc so looking forward to collaborating with them. Also, for new audiences to see the show and to just get back out there and see where it takes us.

Did you always want to be a playwright, and if not what was it that first sparked your interest in theatre?

I always had an interest in writing as a kid, I’d write episodes of The Simpsons and short stories. But it wasn’t until I moved to London to train as an actor that I really started to combine the two and realised that I had some stories in me that were worth telling.

On a related note, how did Faded Ink get started as a company, and how would you describe your mission?

Faded Ink was founded with the aim of producing high quality work that reflects working class backgrounds. We want to perform stories which represent communities that are not regularly touched upon in the theatre. Bringing something raw, passionate and based on personal experience to our work.

Book now for Starved at The Hope Theatre, 16th July to 3rd August.

Director: Matt Strachan

Cast: Michael Black and Alana Connaughton

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