Hunger for Trade: An international performing arts response to the global food crisis

21st April 2014

Global food supplies are facing crisis conditions as climate change, population growth and diminishing resources contribute to catastrophic outcomes for many parts of the world.

Hunger for Trade
Across the UK food bills are rising; we are now eating less but paying more.

The number of people fed by food banks increased tenfold in the last three years and 80% of teachers report that pupils are coming to school hungry.

THIS LAND by Alistair McDowall
In court, on farms and in the dirt, big business is laying claim to everything nature has to offer.

BALANCE by Miriam Battye
Around the dinner table, a family’s relationship buckles under the strain of a mother’s international career.


BLACK GOLD by Kellie Smith
On the Ivory Coast a British trader clashes with a cocoa farmer on the eve of a civil war.

TENDER BOLUS by Brad Birch
A desperate couple on the brink of bankruptcy clamber for a lifeline during one last gorge.

Overseen by the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, HUNGER FOR TRADE is an international and inter-cultural performing arts response to the global food crisis, created in collaboration between nine theatres across four continents. And the Royal Exchange Theatre is the UK’s representative!

The Royal Exchange will be working with multi-award-winning and internationally renowned playwright Simon Stephens who will collaborate with four of the most exciting emerging playwrights from the UK – Miriam Battye, Brad Birch, Alistair McDowall and Kellie Smith – to explore the commodification of our food.

Their research will result in a series of dialogues, interventions and interpretive performance pieces to be staged at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Thursday 24 April, 7.30pm
Friday 25 April, 7.30pm
Saturday 26 April, 8.00pm

Thursday 1 May, 7.30pm
Friday 2 May, 7.30pm
Saturday 3 May, 8.00pm

The final outcome will involve artists from all partners sharing their research, which will culminate in a simultaneous on-line series of dialogues, interventions and interpretive performance pieces. The playwrights will create a theatrical event to explore, uncover and imaginatively express some of the most vital and dangerous issues of our time.

More information and online ticket booking via the Royal Exchange website.

This major international collaboration, with involve working with some of the world’s leading academics, researchers and activists tackling these issues. We are also working with Cargill, an international producer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services operating across 65 countries.

“My main concern as they met international food giants, restaurateurs and chefs, factory workers and academics committed to the study of food resource sustainability were that the writers didn’t lose focus on the humanity. Because drama necessarily concerns itself, not with research or ideology but with human beings. It is in the metabolism of our form.

It strikes me there is something ironic about my insistence now. Because if food resources are at crisis point, and it seems they are, it is because a globalised food industry has prioritised capital and profit over the human consequences of their decisions.

To hold onto a concern with the human dignifies our work in theatre. It sits at the heart of the work of the playwrights because a concern with the contradictory and complicated nature of the human animal will always be more radical than any theoretical argument.

Whether reason and humanity can prevent the catastrophes brought about by the careering profit drives of capital strikes me as one of the key questions of our time. And it sits at the heart of the food trade.” Simon Stephens.

Hunger for Trade is a production of Deutsches SchauSpielHaus Hamburg in coproduction with Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg, Royal Exchange Theatre, Teatrul Odeon, The South African State Theatre, Cia do Tijolo, Indian Ensemble, Théâtr’Evasion and Konzert Theater Bern. Funded by the Culture Programme of the European Union.