Play: Death of a Hunter

  • Anne Dunhill

I'm always pleased to get an invitation to the Finborough Theatre since the plays I've seen there have never failed to live up to the theatre's reputation for originality and excellence. Last night's production of Death of a Hunter was no exception.

Written by Rolf Hochhuth for the Salzburg festival in 1977, the current adaptation by Peter Triers, translated by Peter Sutton was first performed in the UK on Easter Sunday.

The Hunter in question is Ernest Hemingway, who is masterfully portrayed by Edmund Dehn. The set represents Hemingway's study at his final home in Idaho and the action depicts the last hour of Hemingway's life prior to his suicide in the early hours of 2 July 1961.

Hemingway's principal reason for wanting to kill himself is that he believes he can't write any more, but gradually other motives come into play. He needs to complete the act before his fourth wife Mary wakes up. He's suffering from pain and depression after a series of plane crashes. Medical treatment has led to paranoia. He believes his phone is bugged and that the FBI are hiding in the garden. He can't remember why he left his loyal first wife, Hadley. He can't respect either of his sons because they've never fought in combat. The only person he has true respect for is his father Clarence, a GP who successfully shot himself at exactly Ernest's age. Ernest's greatest fear is that he'll botch his suicide up, citing harrowing episodes from his hunting past when he failed to make a clean kill and caused unnecessary suffering to his victims.

The subject matter could easily have led to a performance of unremitting gloom, but thanks to the dynamic direction of Anthony Shrubsall and the luminous performance of Dehn, it is riveting and ultimately uplifting. None but Hemingway could conquer Hemingway which was exactly the way the old hunter would have wanted it.

The Death of a Hunter is directed by Anthony Shrubsall, Design by Holly Maples, Lighting Zak Macro, Producer Sarah Lawrie.

The play runs at the Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London, SW10 9ED on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays until 17 April 2018.

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Tags: Anne Dunhill, Death of a Hunter, Hemingway, Edmund Dehn, Sarah Lawrie

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