The Ice Cream Van’s Hunger thrilled from the very beginning.
The curtains open to a monster mash of performers piled high, and tangled up to resemble Alex Scheffler’s illustration of the Horrible Beast in Julia Donaldson’s Room on the Broom. Hunger’s four-headed beast turn round slowly and spectacularly to reveal a bloody mass of fabulously dark characters feeding lasciviously on one another in a greedy passion. Slowly the orgy separates out into four filthy, knobbly and disfigured individuals, business-suited, jaws juicy with blood, they climb clumsily off the stage with the sole intention of feeding off the audience.
‘Drip, drip from the sharpest prick… would you let us?’
The audience squeal with horrified delight, and we are plunged headlong into the dark world of Frankie Bank. Luckily there’s a shout that lunch time is over, and the four make their way back onto the stage and back to work. A nonsense commute follows, each taking a turn (or two, or three) to descend the imaginary stairs, via escalator, skis, canoe, diving, and falling behind their minimalist waist-high screen and into the Bank. They belong together, playfully impressing, competing and surpassing each other.
At 8am the Blood Market is open on Vein Street and our bankers set about their beautifully choreographed work, creating essences of intricate trader’s deals and bringing to life the vast Blood Market floor on and beyond the tiny Marlborough stage.
We are told how Frankie Bank came about, starting with Adam and Eve –neither being quite ‘Arthur’ or ‘Martha’ – attempting sex by means of a game of scissor / stone / paper, played out by hands through slits as expressive genitalia between each of their legs. The ensuing sequence of ridiculously filthy and innocent couplings eventually does bear fruit. The founder of Frankie Bank is born amid bats, bunting and loud choral music.
Meanwhile Johnny – a puppet cut roughly from a cereal packet and taped to a lolly-stick – has become separated from his Mother on the underground: ‘MUMMY!’ he shouts as he is wiggled about on top of the white screen. ‘Crumbs!’ he declares, ‘I’m all alone in London City’. But alas he is not! Dark eyes follow him from behind billboards and soon enough the Frankie Bankers have him surrounded, promising ‘all the toys later for just one globule of blood now’. They escort Johnny to the Bank and he is ‘deposited’ effectively in shadows, into the Frankie Blood Blank. The cast provide tension with their Jaws-like sound effects. Johnny is no more, and the terrible truth of Frankie Bank is exposed…
Not that the story is all that important in this show. It’s understood and felt that the blood-sucking bankers will lie and cheat and take everyone – themselves included – down, and they do.
The performers – a Lecoq trained theatre quartet, comprised of Sylvain Chevet, Jack Kelly, Loukia Pierides and Mitchel Rose – feed off each other’s creativity to exhilarating, hilarious and thought-provoking effect. It’s the physicality of the performance, the integrity and commitment of the ensemble, that drives us to the edges of our seats, to remain there transfixed until the final curtain. It is testament to Ice Cream Van’s skill that taking a (beautifully) crappy aesthetic, with a minimal set and props, they create this decadent world of excessive consumption.
The silliness is tight and lean and dark: Hunger takes a Rocky Horror Show mash-up with real bodily fluids, adds a lick of Tiger Lillies, and some Forkbeard Fantasy whiskers, to create a wonky world very much their own, with all the makings of a cult classic.
A bloody great show.