By Kendra Jones

The soft echoes of children’s chatter, shrieks, laughter. Tiny backpacks are hung on wall hooks. A glass structure resembling a home, with only its triangular frame brightly lit, is center stage. Within these 100 minutes, it will take form of a house, a school office, a lodge, a Catholic church, a back porch, and the forest.

The Hunt, written by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm and directed by Rupert Goold, presents a tight-knit town, where word travels fast, and brotherhood is ever present. A group of men with guns, beer, and children: Their lives revolve around these these, hyperfocused on hunting not just wildlife, but those that they believe will bring trouble to their home.

The trust and simplicity of a child–how easily it is to spoil their innocence, reminds us how easily they can acquire language without understanding nor realizing its depth. Though, on the other hand, their trust reminds us of the depth of their love, their pure love.

Photo by Teddy Wolff

A kind and quiet kindergarten teacher, Lucas (Tobias Menzies), has allegedly exposed himself to a student, Clara (Aerina DeBoer). Lucas has always been close to Clara and her family. Clara tries to give Lucas a heart lolipop–an innocent draw on a man in whom she finds safety–she doesn’t have this sort of refuge at home. He refuses, not realizing in the moment that this is a request for love and safety; he doesn’t love her the way she needs in this moment. And while this concept can be difficult to balance–to give a child the care they need when they are not our own–The Hunt exhibits the consequences of this: consequences for the adult, the child, and how it can affect a home, a community. Moments like these encapsulate the sincerity of children, and how we often underestimate their genuine hearts, and how easy it can be to take advantage of their unsuspecting nature.

As an educator of young children, I found myself reflecting on moments when adolescents felt comfort and confided in me with stories; when I needed to be who they needed me to be in that moment, and the boundaries one must silently establish; the risk teachers take every day, emotionally, mentally, physically–because ultimately, they are caring and holding responsibility for another developing human.

Clara and her classmate, Peter (Christopher Riley), wait for their parents, late to pick them up from school. As they wait, Peter shows and narrates an inappropriate video he finds on his father’s old phone. From this, and from feeling embarrassment from Lucas’s rejection, she repeats Peter’s descriptions, accusing Lucas of performing these acts in her presence.

We watch a clash of comradery and guns as they merge with accusations and betrayals. We watch Lucas, once a friend and a hunting partner, become foe–as if he is a doe they had all once hunted together.

During this public outrage, Lucas is battling for custody of his own teenage son, Marcus (Raphael Casey), who wants to live with Lucas and is in full support of his father at the most inconvenient time. We watch Lucas and Marcus reconnect as they are both confronted with life changes that they cannot control.

This performance is difficult to digest, roll around in the mind. There are many images I’ll remember when I think back to The Hunt: A gun down the throat of a kneeling man, a tense congregation singing in church on Christmas Eve, a bloodied and blanketed corpse in a man’s weeping hands. An ensemble masked in furred deer heads with full racks, metaphorically wild themselves. They are creatures in survival mode.

I’m in fear for Lucas. We know the results of men in survival mode. And, I understand their accusations, but we also see that things are not always as they appear.

Photo by Teddy Wolff

The Hunt is the most intense production I have seen of any sorts over the past year, at least. My hands clung caught between my crossed legs; I found myself in the chair next to mine by the time the performance ended. I hadn’t realized I had moved, but I was rigid leaning forward at the edge of the seat. I felt myself exhale, finally, when the cast met downstage to a standing ovation. I’m left uneasy at The Hunt’s conclusion. Uneasy, but relieved, and so incredibly content that I chose to spend my evening locked into such pure intensity and discomfort.

Written by Thomas Vinterberg & Tobias Lindholm; Directed by Rupert Goold; Adapted by David Farr.

WITH: MyAnna Buring (Mikala), Raphael Casey (Marcus), Lolita Chakrabarti (Hilde), Adrian Der Gregorian (Rune), Ali Goldsmith (Palme/Dance Captain), Alex Hassell (Theo), Shaquille Jack (Tomas), Danny Kirrane (Gunner), Tobias Menzies (Lucas), Jonathan Savage (Ragnar), Howard Ward (Per/Pastor), Rumi C Jean-Louis, Christopher Riley (Peter), Aerina DeBoer, Kay Winard (Clara).

CREATIVE TEAM: Es Devlin (Set Design), Evie Gurney (Costume Design), Adam Cork (Sound Design & Composition), Neil Austin (Lighting Design), Kel Matsena (Movement Director).

St. Ann’s Warehouse presents the U.S. premiere of the Almeida Theatre’s production of The HuntThe Hunt will run until March 24, 2024 at St. Ann’s Warehouse Water Street, Dumbo BKLYN, through March 24, 2024. Tickets can be purchased here.

The Hunt is based on Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm’s 2012 Academy Award-nominated film Jagten.

The Hunt is recommended for ages 15+. Children under 12 will not be admitted.