Company 13’s newest foray at La Mama Courthouse both intrigues and delights for all the right reasons. The Hunter. The Hunted. tells the story of a few individuals associated with the Royal Geographical Society, exploring the effects of the intricate web of desire, loyalty and obsession they weave.
Upcoming nuptials between Freddie (John Forman) and Elizabeth (Aurora Kurth) sends shockwaves through the small village they inhabit. The Countess (and President of the Society) (Aurora Kurth) is ropable at her expedition leader’s decision to choose domestic life over one of adventure, whilst Freddie’s assistant, Harriet (Fiona Roake) is secretly devastated at his romantic oversight. It challenges us to ask, what do we really want? Who do we really love?
From the outset James Pratt deserves to be commended for his direction. His performers juggle a multitude of characters and yet their transitions, although noticeable even in the darkness, are seamless. His choices surrounding the balance some of the show’s more tender moments and their intensely confronting counterparts were handled impeccably, allowing audiences momentary respites to absorb what was presented to them. Furthermore, Pratt’s exploration of the humour within the story proved a successful one, with particular reference to the character of Christian (Christian Bagin), even if audiences didn’t fully grasp his character – which I admit, I didn’t either.
Perhaps my only real issue with the performance was what struck me as an almost forced attempt to convey the play’s universal themes. These were the inclusions of the performer’s own stories from their lives. The stories were initially incredibly confusing as they pushed audience members out of the theatre world they had worked so hard to create – and then forced them to jump back in straight after. By the third story, I found myself a little bit disinterested as I was too anxious to get back to the drama.
It needs to be said that all four performers held their own, where there was definitely potential for things to go quite wrong, quite quickly. After 60 minutes, only one moment of character confusion occurred which was smoothly recovered from, and laughed off. Kurth also deserves a special mention for playing two juxtaposing characters in the same scene, pulling it off with incredible ease and gusto.
Richard Vabre’s subtle lighting design heightened the atmospheric potential of the play. The Hunter. The Hunted. seemingly carried itself, and the simple wash of colours over those on stage was all the play needed to convey mood. Although bare in terms of set, I found the lighting satisfying enough to fill that inherit desire for flashy scenery. Costuming also allowed the play’s focus to remain on the moral dilemmas occurring within it, and yet I was somewhat left a little dissatisfied at the choice of using a number of different dark coats for numerous characters.
In addition, The Hunter. The Hunted. interestingly incorporates its audio through its performers, who divert themselves to the edges of the stage to play instruments. Although beautifully played, I did find myself distracted by the performance within the performance. Their use of traditional pre-recorded backgrounded music I felt worked better within the space as it allowed the audience to remain invested in the plot. The company did in fact handle their audio well, especially given the fact that there were no microphones on any performers. While at times some subtleties of speech were diminished by more dominant characters, all performers were always audible.
Overall, The Hunter. The Hunted. is a beautiful blend of dark humour and a classic love story. It will have you cackling with laughter one moment and crying in the next, a testament to the thoughtfulness of the piece and its creators. Allow yourself to let go for an hour, and soak up the beauty of The Hunter. The Hunted.