Don’t let its title fool you, The Hunger Room has nothing to do with a dystopian future where children fight each other to the death.

While Scott Button’s new play does center on young adults, it is a dark thriller exploring loneliness, disconnection and violence. Set in a suburban high school, in The Hunger Room a crisis erupts as a mysterious stalker begins delivering notes to female students.

“One of the students receives a note which appears to be written in blood, with violent and sexualized language,” explains playwright Scott Button.  “She doesn’t know where it came from, and her friends and the rest of the school have to figure out who wrote the notes.”

Originally begun as part of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s LEAP playwriting intensive in 2012, The Hunger Room has emerged five years later into the full-length piece to receive its world premiere later this month.

“The play was left on the shelf after a workshop reading in 2013 as people did other stuff,” says Button.

It would be another few years before director Stephen Heatley, who saw the workshop reading, would help bring The Hunger Room to the stage.

Playwright Scott Button wrote The Hunger Room to help fill the void of thrillers on stage
Playwright Scott Button wrote The Hunger Room to help fill the void of thrillers on stage

“Stephen came into some money from the University of British Columbia where he is the head of the film and theatre department, and he approached me to do the show,” says Button.

While the subject matter may be provocative, and speaks to Button’s own life growing up gay in the suburbs, the real satisfaction for the playwright came from being able to write a thriller for the stage.

“I love to be surprised in a theatre and it doesn’t happen enough,” he says. “There is a sense of tension that I don’t see as an audience member very often, and I wanted to create a piece like that.”

Admitting the creation of a mystery or thriller live on stage is a daunting task when compared to film or television, Button says his ultimate focus is on character.

“It’s not a thriller where someone jumps out and scares you,” he says. “There are surprises, but it is more of a psychological tension and suspense between the characters.”

No doubt one of the biggest surprises will be in finding out just what the hunger room is.

The Hunger Room plays the PAL Studio Theatre in Vancouver from May 25 to June 10. Visit http://staircasetheatre.com for tickets and information.