The Hunt at Almeida Theatre
Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg’s 2012 drama The Hunt is skilfully adapted to the stage by David Farr and artistic director Rupert Goold, presenting a tense thriller that posits many questions: what would you do if you were falsely accused of committing a major crime by a minor, and how far would you go to preserve your innocence?
Tobias Menzies is the suspect, Lucas, a recently divorced father to a teenage son, and beloved kindergarten teacher in a Danish rural town. He is superb with the children, like the cheeky and bright Peter (George Nearn Stuart) and understands their sensitivities. One such child, Clara (tonight played by Taya Tower in her debut), offers him a heart-shaped lollipop, and endearingly touches his lips, to which he replies, “it’s for mummies and daddies”. Clara is understandably affected, a shy and precocious girl, she finds the outside world intimidating and her familial one hostile, with bickering parents Mikala (Poppy Miller) and Theo (Justin Salinger.)
When Clara accuses Lucas of exposing himself to her, his life is completely changed. Menzies’s taut features display a man who is falling into despair, attempting to uphold his innocence while trying to stay away from the town men, comprised of parents and towering males, who are naturally enraged to hear the accusations. It is this tribal behaviour that sets things on edge and forces him to face his interrogators. Lucas’s life is nearly ruined; the clan go as far as to kill his dog, a big bear of a thing, tonight played by a real canine, and the relationship between the protagonist and his son Marcus (a sharp performance by Stuart Campbell) also provokes audience sympathies. The stage, designed by Es Devlin, is a brightly lit space contrasted with dark scenes, all through which a glasshouse stands in the middle, revolving on the floor, representing a church, classroom and lodge. Adam Cork’s sound compositions are electrifying; though deafening in some points, they truly carve the production into a gripping drama.
Though Lucas is eventually dropped from all charges, the last scene reiterates how false accusations can truly mar a person’s character for life, as we see him approach the glass house, but only come face to face with his own ghost-like, frightened appearance.
Photos: Marc Brenner
The Hunt is at Almeida Theatre from 17th June until 3rd August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.