Death of a Hunter
Rolf Hochhuth, adapted by Peter Thiers, translated by Peter Sutton
And Tomorrow Theatre Company in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre
The writer Ernest Hemingway has only one hour to live in the monologue Death of a Hunter by Rolf Hochhuth and he must do things before he kills himself.
Restless, he walks about the traverse performance area, never settling on a subject or activity long enough to engage fully with it.
He must “write to the boys” (his sons) but the trouble is he “can’t write anymore.”
He must write a cheque for the cleaning lady, but every time he goes for the chequebook he fears the IRS will get him. And they are not the only ones that might be after him.
He is convinced he is being watched by the FBI, the CIA, the IRS and even the local police whom he phones to tell them he knows what they are up to.
In addition, there are grey figures he claims are coming towards him and “weird creatures sitting on my chest.”
Between his worries about the bugging devices planted everywhere and his speculations about which of the State agencies will get him first, he slips into what is in effect a stream of consciousness the partially recalled memories of failed marriages, war exploits, the killing of pigeons in the park and the suicide of his father.
But at no point do these fragments create a narrative or any dramatic tension. Nor do they encourage empathy for the character played by Edmund Dehn who nevertheless looks and sounds like the writer.
An attempt to lift the material by having Hemingway mockingly reprise the voice of himself and a doctor he met just emphasises the artificial nature of the script.
The one-hour countdown to the suicide of a great writer does not seem the most relaxing idea for a play but it did appear to send the man sitting on the front row to sleep.
Or perhaps he just looked as if he was sleeping as he thought about that unpaid cleaning lady whose cheque never got signed.
As the character Hemingway admits, “I was too full of myself to spare a thought for the cleaning lady.”
Or it seems for an audience who never looked particularly engaged.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna