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Friday 19 July 2019

The Hunt, Play, adapted by David Farr from screenplay by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, Almeida Theatre, London, 10* out of 10

The Hunt is a brilliant play about suspicion and the breakdown of trust in a rural community in Denmark. Do not be put off from seeing it just because an accusation of sexual abuse of a child is its starting point. There is so much more to this play including decency, warmth, and loyalty in the most difficult of circumstances. David Farr's adaptation of the original film script is an unqualified success and the team of creatives and actors at the Almeida has done an excellent job with this flawless and powerful production. 

Lucas (Tobias Menzies), has become a kindergarten teacher in the Danish village where he grew up. He is also part of a hunting club, where the men of the village meet to hunt and drink and go to the sauna together in a tradition. Hunting successes are celebrated and hunting failures are mocked at sumptuous meals where the prey is devoured while alcohol and conversation flow freely. Men will be boys and membership passes from father to son. 

Lucas has just gone through a lengthy divorce and his son Marcus (Stuart Campbell) has to decide whether he wants to live with his mother or with Lucas. 

Lucas is very much liked by the children in the kindergarten, among them Clara (Florence White), the daughter of Theo (Jethro Skinner) one of his best friends and Mikala (Poppy Miller) who has not quite overcome her teenage crush for Tobias. After Clara has caught a glimpse of a porn video on the smartphone of her friend Peter (George Nearn Stuart), she mentions to the head-teacher of the kindergarten, Hilde (Michelle Austin), that she has seen Lucas with his erect penis and he asked her to touch it.

The headteacher quickly jumps to the plausible conclusion that 5-year-old Clara cannot have invented such a story even though Lucas, of course, denies it. Hilde suspends Lucas, informs the parents of all the children in the kindergarten of her suspicions and asks accountant and school board member Per (Howard Ward) to speak to Clara and the other children. As the investigation proceeds, Lucas defends himself and tries to stand his ground as he is ostracised by the community of which he was part.

The Hunt started its life as a brilliant screenplay and film by Danish filmmakers Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm starring Mats Mikkelsen. I reviewed the film here in 2012 ( I usually do not usually see the point of adapting an excellent film script for the theatre, but David Farr's adaptation is an unqualified success. Moreover, the team at the Almeida has done a brilliant job and created a flawless and powerful production. At the centre of Es Devlin's set is a glasshouse at times transparent at times opaque around which the production turns. The direction by Rupert Goold is outstanding, the acting ensemble performs at a very high level, such that singling any performances out seems almost unfair. But the children are excellent, Michelle Austin, Poppy Miller and Jethro Skinner outstanding. Tobias Menzies' performance as Lucas is nuanced, gritty and realistic.

It's productions like this that continue to make coming to London a must for anyone anywhere in the world who loves the theater. "Vaut le voyage" as the Michelin tourist guide would say.

 The Hunt


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