Written by Sarah Daniels / Produced by Theatre of Debate
Written by Sarah Daniels / Produced by Theatre of Debate
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).
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…
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.