Hungry

Written by Sarah Daniels / Produced by Theatre of Debate

Facilitator Notes

Description

Sarah has written a play which at the same time as being highly entertaining, explores, through its sharply observed characters and strong dramatic narrative, the experts’ areas of research and the challenges they are working to address.

These challenges include: understanding what makes a healthy diet, discovering ways of changing our behaviour, finding ways of containing the growing obesity epidemic, stopping food waste, protecting biodiversity, campaigning for the adoption of sustainable food into our diets and food policies that truly address current and future challenges.

Hungry provides you and your students with the opportunity to discuss, debate and learn about any or all of the above. The debate that follows the play will challenge audiences to explore solutions to some of the major challenges, including why we need to change our behaviour in relation to food and whether and how we might achieve that through policy and regulation. The online resources include specially selected filmed sequences from the play which will give you and your students the opportunity to revisit the themes and the issues and deepen learning. The resources also include filmed interviews with the experts and films of some of the presentations given on the workshop day. You could also choose to use the filmed sequences from the play and the filmed expert interview/presentations with students who have not seen the play.

Learning Points

The following have been developed with input from Y Touring’s evaluation team and other experts to provide an overview of the key learning points within the play and the discussion points explored in the debate.

We have included a short dialogue sequence from the play with each learning point.

  • People’s eating choices are influenced by many factors, including social and environmental factors, not just hunger
  • Dietary choices have consequences for people’s health (e.g. being underweight, overweight or deficient in certain nutrients)
  • Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to skin infections, loss of a limb, loss of sight and heart problems
  • Exercise increases the amount of energy – calories – used by the body & so can lead to weight loss
  • Bio-diversity is important to ensure sustainable food stocks to feed the world’s population

Hungry in Your School

The Theatre of Debate model consists of a performance of the play (approx 60 minutes), a debate (up to 45 minutes) and online educational resources.

The Play – Hungry is a contemporary drama with humour about two very different women and two very different families, whose lives become inextricably intertwined when Suzanna, an ambitious young lawyer, employs Ruby, a grandmother, as her cleaner. Before the performance, the Y Touring facilitator will introduce the audience to the use of the electronic voting system and the subject matter.

The play will be performed in traverse style – a form of theatrical stage in which the audience is predominantly on two sides of the stage, facing each other.

The Debate – After the performance there will be a facilitated debate in which the actors return in character and answer questions. Electronic voting is used before the performance and then throughout the debate. The debate lasts up to 45 minutes, depending on the time available in your school.

Resources – The resources will include interactive activities, which you can use as the basis for follow-up lessons as well as a series of short film clips of sequences from the play, which are useful to stimulate further exploration of the issues raised and to refresh the students’ memories where necessary.

Sensitive issues – There may be students in your school who have similar issues or experiences to the characters in Hungry.

Ashley is a 16 year old who recently lost his father and finds himself having to care for his mother who is experiencing clinical depression. Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest 244,000 people under 19 are carers – about 23,000 are under nine. The Children’s Society warns this is likely to be “the tip of the iceberg” and that children’s education and job prospects could be damaged.

Ashley is deeply ashamed of his family’s dependence on attending a food bank. They are too poor to support themselves without it, and he is acutely aware that others might judge his family as members of the ‘undeserving poor’ even though the situation they find themselves in is largely through no fault of their own, but follows the early death of his father and his mother’s subsequent depression. The charity the Trussell Trust predicts up to one million Britons will turn to food banks in 2014 to feed their families.

Xavier is a lonely 13 year old who doesn’t like sports and is obese and at risk of developing type 2 diabetes unless he changes his behaviour and diet. It is more than likely that he experiences bullying as a result of his condition: Ashley refers to him as ‘Posho Porko pieboy’ in the play. Doctors say the UK has the highest rate of child obesity in Western Europe.

Obesity has been linked with serious illnesses during childhood and an increased risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma and breathing difficulties during sleep. National surveys in England suggest about three in 10 two-to-15-year-olds are overweight, while 14-20% are obese.

About the Playwright Sarah Daniels

Sarah Daniels (born 1957) is a popular and critically acclaimed writer and has had two collections of her plays published by Methuen. Sarah’s playwriting career took off after she was able to spend a year as the writer-in-residence of Sheffield University’s English department.

She has been a prolific writer since her first performed play was given a production at the Royal Court in 1981. Her plays have appeared at other venues including the National Theatre, the Battersea Arts Centre, the Crucible, Sheffield and Chicken Shed.

She has also written episodes of the soap-operas Grange Hill, Eastenders and Holby City. She has also been a member of the board of directors for Clean Break Theatre.

Plays include: Masterpieces (1983)’, The Devil’s Gateway (1983), Neaptide (1984), Byrthrite (1986),The Gut Girls (1988), Beside Herself (1990), The Madness of Esme and Shaz (1994) Dust (2003), Flying Under Bridges (2005), Head Rot Holiday (1991), God Blind Me (radio play 2007), But If You Try Sometimes (radio play 2011).

Synopsis

Hungry is a contemporary drama about two very different women from two very different families, whose lives become inextricably intertwined when Suzanna, an ambitious young lawyer, employs Ruby, a grandmother, as her cleaner.

Suzanna is in the process of making a fortune representing a global fizzy drinks company, and Tobias, her husband, is away in India working on a genetically modified rice project. As a result, she finds herself almost too busy to look after her spoilt, overweight teenage son Xavier, much as she loves him.

Ruby, on the other hand, has had low-paid, unskilled manual jobs all her life. Her husband died young of a heart attack. What she might lack in intellectual ability, she makes up for in humour and emotional intelligence. Ruby is grateful for the job as she is desperate to find ways of supporting her daughter and grandson Ashley.

As a result of a mental health condition her daughter is unemployed and about to lose her benefits. Money is so tight, Ruby’s daughter has had to resort to using a food bank in order to try and feed Ashley and herself. With some money coming in and the left over food that she smuggles home from Suzanna’s lavish dinner parties, Ruby finds she can take the pressure off her family.

Everything changes when, one morning, Ruby discovers Xavier hiding in a kitchen cupboard. He’s playing truant from school to avoid games. (He is teased and bullied because he is so overweight.) At first Ruby says that he has to go back to school and when he refuses she says she’ll have to tell his mother. Xavier turns on Ruby threatening to blackmail her – while hiding in the kitchen cupboard, he’s secretly filmed her ‘stealing’ the left over food. If Ruby tells Suzanna that he has been playing truant, he will tell Suzanna that Ruby is a thief.

Desperate to keep her job, Ruby doesn’t tell Suzanna about Xavier. However, matters come to a head when one day Suzanna asks Ruby to accompany Xavier to the doctor because she is busy in court. The doctor explains to Xavier that he is obese and there is a strong possibility if he doesn’t change his behaviour he will develop type 2 diabetes.

Xavier tells Ruby that she must not tell his mother the truth about what the doctor has told them and when Ruby says she will have to tell Suzanna, Xavier once again threatens to tell his mother that Ruby is a thief and cannot be trusted.

Ruby goes to tell Suzannna…

Characters

XAVIER 13, Susanna’s very over-weight son – Xavier is defensive and unhappy about his weight but covers it with arrogant bluster. He lives in another world from Ruby (the new cleaner in his house) and has no idea how different their lives are until he visits her in her daughter in law’s flat. He goes to a fee-paying school but has gone to great lengths to bunk off games because he can’t bear the teasing and snide jibes of his classmates. He is lonely. He loves his mum but is slightly wary of his dad who, because he’s worried about Xavier, likes to bring the weight issue up every time they speak via Skype.

ASHLEY 16, Ruby’s Grandson – Ashley loves Ruby Throughout the play he becomes increasingly ground down by his family’s situation, and their lack of money and more and more aware of what others think of ‘benefit scroungers’. Increasingly his anger mounts. The only way he can see getting out of the situation they’re in is to abandon his hopes of going to university and get a job.

He actually likes having to wear a school uniform because he is self-conscious about his lack of designer casual clothes. He has a pair of trainers which are passable that he bought using his paper round money. They are looking very worn and old now, but since his money goes towards the household expenses, he is unable to buy new ones.

RUBY 60, Ashley’s Grandmother – Ruby has worked hard for her family all her life. She has worked just as hard trying to make the best of things, stay positive and not let others down by giving in to feeling miserable. She has a big heart and likes to make people laugh. Sometimes because she can be outspoken this can backfire. She really wants Ashley to have a better life and would probably do anything for him. She is a over 60 and still having to work to support the family.

SUZANNA 41, Xavier’s Mother – Suzanna is middle class, effortlessly elegant and well-groomed despite having to do her hair and make-up in the car or half way down the stairs. She means well and has a social conscience but sometimes cannot see what is under her nose. She loves Xavier and is concerned that she doesn’t spend enough time with him but her work as a barrister puts increasing demands on her time. She is partly in denial about Xavier’s weight, but also genuinely believes that people come in all shapes and sizes and that it could be puppy fat that he’ll grow out of.

/doubles as Doctor Young, a paediatrician
The doctor is not at all as Xavier describes her i.e. ‘a bitch’, but a very kind, warm, caring, professional woman who has worked with children and young people for many years.

(TOBIAS 42, Xavier’s Father – only seen via Skype) – Tobias is well-educated, possibly ex-public school. He is genuinely concerned about Xavier’s health. (He went with him to the last hospital appointment.) He would never admit to anyone that he’s also a bit ashamed of his son both because of the way he looks and his lack of interest in sport. When he was Xavier’s age, he was playing rugby and loving it.

Discussion points

  • Who is responsible for ensuring people have a healthy diet? Individuals? Families? Health services? Governments? Food manufacturers?
  • How can people be persuaded to change their lifestyles and their diets? Education? Advertising? Social pressure?
  • Is it right for companies to develop products that bring economic benefits but at the risk of significant social cost?
  • Some people die from lack of food, whilst others die from eating too much of the wrong food. Can this be justified?
  • Should manufacturers be allowed to produce and sell food that contains unhealthy ingredients with little or no nutritional value or should such food be banned?

Before the Play

Preparing Your Students

Evaluations of previous Theatre of Debate projects have emphasised the importance of preparing the students to ensure that they gain the maximum benefit from the project. That said, we know that some teachers prefer not to prepare their students for the event, with the belief that our productions have greater impact if the students are simply told they are going to see a live performance. Either way, we hope that you will find the following suggested pre-play lessons helpful.

Preparatory Activity 1: What does it mean?

Objective

A discussion exercise to ensure that your students are familiar with the key terms and phrases referred to in the play. You may wish to scan the included glossary and substitute alternative words or phrases that you may feel are more relevant.

Process

Explain that you are going to say a word or phrase and that when you call out their name, you want each of your students to say the first word that comes into their head.

Explain that if they can’t think of a word or if their mind goes blank, they can say ‘Pass’.

After each round, clarify the actual meaning of the word or phrase if appropriate and discuss as a class some of the associations that have been shared.

Words and Phrases

ObesityBiodiversityOrganicFood bank
Sustainable FoodType 2 diabetesProcessed foodFast food
Under-nutritionSaturated fatSugary drinksHealthy food

Preparatory Activity 2: What do we feel?

Objective

To explore the emotions that students might attach to some of the key words and phrases associated with food.

Process

Explain that you are going to say a word or phrase and that when you call out their name, you want each of your students to say the emotion that they associate with that word.

Explain that if they can’t think of a word or if their mind goes blank, they can say ‘Pass’. Discuss, as a class, some of the associations that have been shared. You may wish to scan the included glossary and substitute alternative words or phrases that you may feel are more relevant.

Words and Phrases

BiodiversityFried chicken shopChocolate antsGM crops
SupermarketsVegetarianClimate changeFood Bank

Preparatory Activity 3: What do we think?

Objective

To explore what your students know, think and feel about issues posed by food and behaviour change and the questions raised in Hungry before seeing the play and participating in the debate. You might want to repeat this activity as a follow up activity as well.

Resources

A large empty classroom or drama studio.

Process

Ask your students to stand in the centre of the space.

Explain that there is an imaginary line running down the centre of the space, one end of the line represents ‘Agree’ and the opposite end of the line represents ‘Disagree’. The middle of the line is ‘Don’t Know’.

Explain that you are going to read out a series of statements. If they agree with the statement they should go and stand at the end of the line that is ‘Agree’. If they disagree they should go and stand at the end of the line that is ‘Disagree’. If they are not sure or don’t know what they think they should stay in the middle.

After they have taken up their positions, ask your students to explain why they have chosen their position. After hearing from several students give your group the opportunity of changing their position.

Repeat the process for each statement.

Statements

  • It’s the parents fault if their children become obese
  • Parents are responsible for what their children eat
  • Food manufacturers should not be allowed to make and sell unhealthy food and drinks
  • Sugary drinks should be banned
  • There’s nothing wrong with eating horse meat
  • Fast food shops (i.e. fried chicken) should not be allowed to open within walking distance of a school
  • Governments should not make laws about what food and drink manufacturers can make and sell – it is our right to choose
  • Young people are responsible for what they eat
  • I wouldn’t let my children drink sugary drinks and eat fast food
  • The low cost of food is more important than ensuring that it is ethically and fairly produced
  • Advertisements for processed foods should be banned just like cigarette advertising
  • If meat became scarce I would be happy to eat insects

After The Play and Debate

Worksheet 1: Write a review

Section 1 – The Production
Include information about the particular production that you saw. If you don’t know or can’t remember any of this information check out the Theatre of Debate website where you will be able to find it.

Section 2 – The Production’s Plot or Narrative
Give a brief outline of the story and the main characters. Do make sure that it is brief – up to 750 words.

Section 3 – The Technical Stuff (Set, the music, the costumes etc…)
Describe the setting or main features of the scenery. Did the set add something extra to then play? Some sets are very elaborate whereas others seem little more than a bare stage. How appropriate was this particular set to the production you saw and to the space it was being performed in?

Mention any obvious soundtrack, special effects or music. How was sound used in the production? Did a soundtrack add to or create setting, mood or atmosphere? What did you think about the costumes or props? Did they help actors in their performance? Did they help to express the characters or themes of the production? Did any actor excel in using them to show you what kind of person they are? Did the costumes suit the characters?

Section 4 – The Acting and Performances
Comment on important characters. How did you rate the actors? Describe voice and movement choices.

Section 5 – Conclusion
On balance was it a successful production? Did it work for you – did it make you laugh, cry, think? Did you enjoy it? Did it keep your interest and involve you with the characters? Do you think differently as a result of seeing this play and participating in the debate, from the way you thought before? What questions would you like to ask the playwright? Did it leave you with other questions and if so what were they? Where they about the characters, the storyline or about the science behind food and nutrition? What questions would you like to ask a food scientist as a result of seeing this play? Who else do you think should see this play?

Hints and Tips

“The first rule is that there are no rules – you’re writing a review to express your thoughts and feelings about a theatre show, not taking an exam. There are as many ways to write a review as there are personal responses to any production. There is no right or wrong. Allow yourself to develop your own distinctive voice, and be honest about what you really think about a production: convey your enthusiasm for it or explain why you disliked it” Lyn Gardner Theatre Critic The Guardian

When writing your review of the performance, be honest. Just because your friend loved the show doesn’t mean that you have to. If you didn’t like it, say so. But please remember that although you may express any opinion about the production you have seen they must be justified – good or bad.

e.g. “I thought the scene with the monkey was boring”
is no help to your review, whereas…

“The scene with the monkey was quite boring because it went on too long and didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story”

…is much better and will get you points from the judges whether or not they agree with your personal opinion. Always give examples to support the point you are making, use details from the performance; acting, set, sound, lighting, audience response etc.