Review: The Hunt (Almeida Theatre, London)

Image by Marc Brenner

There was a moment somewhere during the first half of Rupert Goold’s latest production, David Farr’s adaptation of the Danish film Jagten, that I realised I wasn’t breathing. To add to the discomfort, I was hunched up in such a way, I needed a solid yoga session afterwards to unfurl.

Comfort is not a luxury The Hunt can afford. In typical Scandinavian noir fashion, we are transported to a remote rural community full of bearded men chanting over beer and weaponry. At the centre of the community focused rituals, we have Primary School teacher Lucas, the lone man with few words whose world weary features hide a life time of experience. So far, so masculine.

Image by Marc Brenner

The testosterone-fest is the first of many divisive elements to Goold’s production. Other Marmite elements include child abuse, victim blaming and Canicide. This is what makes the production so powerful and so necessary. Theatre should, amongst many other things, provoke. Sitting on the fence or feeling unmoved either way is the result of mediocre theatre. From the very begining, The Hunt demands you sit up and take notice. Mediocrity is not an option.

The Hunt is a running commentary on how we are a living, breathing venn diagram of the world we grew up in, the world we live in and the choices we make. On paper, that sounds simplistic, however, when the people of the small community Lucas lives and works in are confronted with their reality, they realise that there is more than one kind of truth.

As Lucas, Tobias Menzies embodies both dignity and a beautifully pitched unravelling. He is the thumping heartbeat of the piece and as a Scandinavian John Proctor, the play rests on his tortured shoulders. A task that Menzies triumphs in.

There is also stellar support from the dysfunctional parenting team of Poppy Miller and Danny Kirrane. Es Devlin’s design is a masterclass in simplicity and multifunctionality. The young cast are also proof positive that London’s Almeida Theatre is a hotbed of talent. Taya Tower’s cool, calm and controlled Clara balanced magnificently with George Nearn Stuart’s freewheeling, internet savvy Peter.

Image by Marc Brenner

The Hunt is not easy viewing. It will certainly divide opinion and it is loud and clear in its desire to provoke discussion. It is also an intelligently written adaptation steeped in theatricality whilst providing a nod to its source material. It’s packed with terrific performances and is a clear favourite to be one of 2019’s best offerings.

Goold has a sucker punch of a production on his hands and one that should not be missed.

The Hunt continues until 3rd Augist 2019. Full details can be found here.

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