My Filthy Hunt
Horizon Arts @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio
4:00pm, Sun 13 Mar 2011
It’s an ominous and uncomfortable opening: as some caustic Depeche Mode plays, four characters clad only in black underwear prowl around the stage in a square, anger evident in the way they move… and if the body language doesn’t give it away, the eyes do. As they face the audience, their eyes burn holes in us; being locked in the sights of these people was not a pleasant experience. Suddenly, the frame that had provided our only respite as they had negotiated their way through it on their path is flung down: it becomes a grave, and they all stand beside it, mourning the loss of their common friend, Marvin.
Marvin was more than a friend to them; he was their saviour. One by one they reveal how they met Marvin, and how he saved them from their previous lives: the bloke who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, who saw his friend die. The pretty girl distanced by her own beauty. The girl abused by her father who cannot tolerate the presence of other men. The intensely shy guy, bullied his entire life. Marvin came into their lives and made them better; he gave them the confidence to be strong.
But now, in his absence, they all fall apart. They all know what Marvin did for them; but how could they possibly carry on without him? Were they actually better off not having met him at all?
There’s no doubt that Marvin is a religious figure within the context of Hunt, and that the play as a whole is a reflection on the role of religion on society. And that may sound like a pretty pretentious idea for a play, but it’s handled really well – there’s nothing overt about the presentation, and Marvin could just be some guy who was really nice to people.
The first act of My Filthy Hunt is – quite frankly – fucking incredible. As the Marvin stories are told, the other performers continue prowling the stage, leaping into character as the stories warrant. The second act is a little more circumspect as they wallow in His absence; I feel a little divorced from the play until the narrative returns to the graveside, and all four characters repeat the first words Marvin said to them. Suddenly, out of all the noise and bluster and aggression that the play had provided beforehand, I’m choking up; it’s a remarkable bit of writing, with a completely unexpected U-turn into tenderness.
My Filthy Hunt shares a lot in common with Horizon Arts’ last Adelaide production, Heroin(e) for Breakfast – both were written and directed by Philip Stokes, both feature the incredibly intense Craig McArdle (who played Niffer here), and last year’s heroin(e) was assistant director on the project. Both pieces cast a cynical and despairing eye on modern Britain; both pieces presented a collection of shattered characters. But, for me, My Filthy Hunt is – by far – the more enjoyable show (though “enjoyable” feels like completely the wrong word to use) – it was challenging, raw, passionate, and extremely rewarding.