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ONLINE THEATRE Heartfelt homage to Hemingway

The last hours of the writer before his suicide are memorably captured in Death of a Hunter, says JOHN GREEN

Death of a Hunter
Finborough Theatre

ENFANT terrible of German theatre Rolf Hochhuth wrote Death of a Hunter in 1976, and the Finborough has now made its production of this one-man play available online, in tribute to the playwright who died in May this year.

Superbly directed by Anthony Shrubsall , it boasts a bravura performance by Edmund Dehn, a dead ringer for Hemingway.

The action takes place in the writing room of Hemingway’s Idaho home on a set that is minimal but authentic — an animal pelt mantels the writer’s chair, angler’s nets are stacked in a large vase on the floor, an unused typewriter and a tape recorder sit on his desk and a telephone and standing lamp complete the stage picture.

The recorder is used to play back short excerpts from Hemingway’s writing, interrupting and echoing the actor’s voice and testifying to his robust prose style.

We experience Hemingway's final hours as he attempts to draw up a balance sheet of his life. No longer able to write and his muse having deserted him, he rails impotently against his physical decline.

Dehn is riveting as he brings out Hemingway’s searing anger, frustration and pent-up energy. There are allusions to his bravery in the first world war, his infatuation with big-game hunting, fishing and bullfighting, and it's impossible not to empathise with this larger-than-life man now facing a pathetic demise. “All my life I have tried to suppress the fear inside me,” he declares plaintively.

He is tortured by the fact that his own father also committed suicide and interrogates some of his own attitudes such as his portrayal of war as “a joy” and his masculine egoism.

The political context of his life is only sketchily mentioned — at one stage, he picks up the phone and shouts at the FBI man he presumes is eavesdropping on his life and he also complains of CIA harassment.

But we are given no context for this — his seminal experience during the Spanish civil war is not alluded to at all and his love affair with Cuba mentioned almost as an aside.

Nevertheless, this is a powerful play about coming to terms with declining powers and death — as Hemingway tellingly bewails: “You can’t play poker with God.”

Free to download until October 7, finboroughtheatre.co.uk

 

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