Adapted from the jointly scripted Danish crime thriller Jagten, The Hunt brings the raw subject of child abuse accusation to the London stage. Because we experience the trauma that unfolds from the accused point of view, we know immediately that he is innocent. However, the closely-knit community don’t, and they are swept up by a little girl’s explicit confession and the horror that their entrusted friend and teacher Lucas (Tobias Menzies) might well be a paedophile.
In The Hunt, the writers have tipped the balance from historical disbelief in the child to the adult. Their concern is what to do when an adult man is falsely accused of a sex crime against a child. When so many children have been disbelieved, this is a challenging angle. To some extent, the false accusation is mitigated in the production mostly because the child is being churlish rather than vindictive.
By Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm; Adapted by David Farr; Direction: Rupert Goold
Cast: Tobias Menzies, Michele Austin, Danny Kirrane, Howard Ward, Stuart Campbell, Adrian Der Gregorian, Keith Higham, Harrison Houghton, Poppy Miller, Abbiegail Mills, George Nearn Stuart, Itoya Osagiede, Justin Salinger, Jethro Skinner, Taya Tower and Florence White (Photos Marc Brenner)
Be that as it may, the audience is a silenced witness to an injustice. We don’t have to find out “who dunnit”. In this way, except for sheer frustration in being silenced, the writers give the audience an easy ride. The fact that Lucas barely defends himself is all the more frustrating. He watches events unravel as if from the side-lines. Instead of raging against injustice, he looks pleadingly, hoping that the community’s long-standing familiarity with him as a good person will win through. It takes his teenage son Marcus (Stuart Campbell), to rage on his father’s behalf. And it is his pain towards the end of the play that, at last, brings Lucas’s anger to the forefront.
What arises from the dilemma of the play, is the way in which the community react as a pack. They are torn between incredulity and revenge. In a disturbing crescendo, the men encircle the accused, chanting and stomping in sequence as if performing a Scandinavian version of the Haka.
The fact that we might want to intervene, is a testament to the effectiveness of this production. The script is tight, the stage design simple but dramatic and the performances of the lead and cast are utterly absorbing.
Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, London, N1 1TA Monday 17 June – Saturday 3 August 2019