Theatre Review - The Hunt

David Farr has transformed Thomas Vinterberg’s and Tobias Lindholm’s 2012 film into a startling and resonant piece of theatre.

Lucas (Tobias Menzies), a softly-spoken primary school teacher, lives in a small Danish town. He’s recently separated from his wife and has a teenage son, Marcus (Stuart Campbell), who he longs to see more of. From the play’s beginning, a rousing end of term speech delivered by Hilde (Michele Austin), it is clear that the townsfolk are governed by a strong sense of community.

When Lucas is falsely accused of abusing six-year-old Clara, (a superb Taya Tower), one of his charges and his friend’s daughter, we quickly realise that he at risk of being lynched by his incensed neighbours. This threat is underlined by the men’s fondness for ritualistic hunting parties fuelled by alcohol.

Although Clara eventually refutes her claim, her dysfunctional parents (Poppy Miller and Justin Salinger) reserve judgement. They have their own reasons for accusing Lucas; distrusting his composure and jealous of their daughter’s affection for him.  

Bonhomie swiftly turns to violence in Rupert Goold’s electrifying production. Tribal instincts, toxic masculinity and distrust of the other - of anyone who doesn’t fit into the community’s neatly defined parameters - wreak havoc on this close-knit community.

Dominating Es Devlin’s remarkable set design is a small glass house, on a revolve. It variously stands in for a classroom, a hunter’s lodge, a playhouse and a church. Sometimes transparent, other times dark, it radiates both menace and innocence and becomes a brooding presence in the play.

Menzies is outstanding in the central role, although a dog and two child actors almost steal the show. Terrific performances and a topical, hard-hitting drama make for an unmissable evening.

Almeida Theatre
Running until 3 August 2019 

Originally published by Camden Review