My Filthy Hunt

Philip Stokes
Horizon Arts with Richard Jordan Productions
Underbelly

Marvin is a good man, a metaphor for hope and self-respect. These two qualities are sadly lacking in the Yorkshire town where Philip Stokes' debut play is set.

It may be a little rough around the edges but if this is the future of theatre, we have a lot to look forward to.

A cast of four disconcertingly start the hour by undressing to their underwear. This is obviously intended to symbolise the way in which they will unflinchingly relate their experiences to a voyeuristic audience.

All four are losers. What they have in common is redemption from the depths of suicidal despair by Marvin, who is soon afterwards lost to them all.

Led by Hayley Shillito, whose character suffers from beauty, they each tell tales of lives barely worth living.

She merely has to put up with male assumptions. Kate Daley as her female companion has had a bad home life that only gets worse when she marries Johnny who eventually cruelly induces an abortion with his boots.

The men fare little better. Aiden Ross plays a weedy type who is always the butt of jokes, while Lee Bainbridge portrays an over-sized sex pest whose self-love is not mirrored by anyone else. He gets more sympathy, following the pain of losing a close friend.

Between them, using naturalistic language, the quartet paints a depressing but all too believable picture of the lives that deprived young people experience in Britain today.

My Filthy Hunt may have a provocative title but it is a sensitive play that asks existential questions and has the good sense to leave them unanswered.

While the writing is fresh and exciting, what lifts My Filthy Hunt to tremendous heights is the direction of Philip Stokes, who may not always edit his own text assiduously but draws fine performances from all four actors. He also mixes strong textual delivery with music and physical theatre elements to ensure a great, if shocking experience.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher