The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting
archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new
shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of
watching live theatre
Death Of A Hunter
Finborough Theatre Autumn 2020
Rolf Hochhuth's dramatic imagining of the last hour in the life of American writer Earnest Hemingway played one weekend at the Finborough Theatre in April 2018. It is thin and not particularly insightful or imaginative, and hard-working actor Edmund Dehn and director Anthony Shrubsall are unable to do very much with the little they are given.
The author of A Farewell
To Arms and For Whom The Bell Tolls killed
himself in 1961, and Hochhuth's unoriginal theory is that the
hard-living man's-man novelist had written himself out and saw no
reason to live if he couldn't write. He has his Hemingway say as much
– in one of the few resonant moments in the monologue Hemingway
says a writer who can't write feels Death at his elbow the same way a
terminally ill man does.
But that is just about
the limit of
Hochhuth's insights. He doesn't give us any real sense of what it
feels like to lose the thing that defined you, or even convince us
that the man before us actually was a writer. A passing reference to
Hemingway's book The Old Man And The Sea goes by too quickly for us
to register that it was about a man achieving his life's ambition
only to sit helplessly and see it lost.
Hochhuth is a little
successful in suggesting a man's man beginning to realise that his
romanticising of war and big game hunting was as much a matter of
trying to convince himself as his readers.
But even that is more
generic than individualised and, despite sprinkling the text with
occasional details – the names of Hemingway's wives, his love of
Cuba – the man never comes alive as Earnest Hemingway.
thin material to work with, it may be an accomplishment for director
Shrubsall and actor Dehn to achieve what they do, even if that is no
more than generic Bitter Old Guy.
There are some missed
along the way. Hochhuth attempts, a bit clumsily, to demonstrate
Hemingway's writer's block by having him unable to write a cheque for
the cleaning lady or type a letter to his sons.
But at those moments,
with pen in hand or fingers poised over the keyboard, Edmund Dehn
shows no physical or nervous strain. We don't see paralysis, but what
could be nothing more than a whimsical decision to put it off for
The actor's movements
around the stage, occasionally sitting
at his desk or perching on a bar stool, seem arbitrary and
unmotivated, as does his occasional listening, like Beckett's Krapp,
to old audio tapes.
(Those tapes pose
another problem the director
doesn't solve. The character also occasionally hears the voice of his
own thoughts and also the imagined voice of his father, and the
production does not distinguish clearly among them.)
This recording was made in an empty Finborough, and one senses the actor missing the support and feedback an audience could have given him. The multi-camera multi-microphone video is marred only by frequent shifts in light and sound levels.
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