From Screen to Stage: „The Hunt” Wows New York with a Terrifying Witch Trial

The St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn is currently hosting “The Hunt,” a play adapted from the well-known Danish movie of the same name, originally directed by Thomas Vinterberg and written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm.

The production arrives at the warehouse’s industrial, medieval castle-like walls via London’s powerhouse theatre, The Almeida, renowned for its bold and versatile repertoire. Due to its immense popularity, the show’s run has already been extended from February 16 to March 24, providing enthusiasts of innovative theatre more opportunities to experience this adaptation. A comfortably chilly night, trees wrapped up in strings of mini lights, and the abutment of the Brooklyn Bridge: the perfect venue for a memorable stage performance.

The Hunt

St Ann’s Warehouse

„The Hunt” should be up and running in as many countries as possible. Why? Let’s see why!

“The Hunt” centers around Lucas, a reserved and often emotionally distant kindergarten teacher living in rural Denmark. When allegations from young students surface, he finds himself at the center of a storm, as the community, his friends, and the authorities begin an investigation. In this small town, Lucas and his friends maintain a long-standing tradition of gathering in lodges in the woods, where they drink, sing, and, most importantly, hunt for deer.

The U.S. premiere of the play has garnered praise, being called “electric” by The Observer and showcasing Rupert Goold’s “top-of-his-game” vision by The Stage. Goold, the artistic director of The Almeida Theatre and director of “The Hunt,” explained in an interview with the Brooklyn Eagle that he never approaches an adaptation without ensuring he can find a new form for the story on stage. With “The Hunt,” he aimed to „create a series of gladiatorial scenes offering actors the chance to delve into the extraordinary depths that stage acting, with its full physicality, can provide”. He has two more shows in line, transferring to Broadway this year.

The Hunt

St. Ann’s Warehouse, with its transformation from an industrial warehouse to a contemporary theatre, serves as the perfect venue for this production. The intimate space exudes an aged atmosphere that elicits a primal, almost shamanic sensation within its visitors. The stage, framed by an oval brick wall, transcends time and provides a dynamic backdrop that transports the audience to another era. As actors emerge carrying torches or donning masks of (faux) taxidermy animals, chanting haunting rhymes and closing in on the ill-fated Lucas, one cannot help but experience a chill coursing through their veins.

Adam Cork’s sound design and music, known for his work on Leopoldstadt and Patriots, amplifies the animalistic, foreboding ambiance and heightens the tension. The simple yet powerful staging, featuring a small house at the center, creates a visual metaphor for the division between those on the inside and those left outside. The interplay of colors and lighting, crafted by Neil Austin, enhances the narrative, with neon lights piercing the otherwise warmly lit stage, faithfully recalling the color palette of the original movie. One minor critical remark in regards to the force of light and sound design: sometimes it is too good. Meaning, it raises the emotional stakes of certain scenes so much that it ends up diminishing the scenes that come right after – no matter how well acted those happen to be.

Rupert Goold, who has collaborated with Tobias Menzies on multiple plays in the U.K., in a recent interview, praised the Emmy-winning actor as “possibly the finest stage actor I’ve ever worked with.” Goold highlighted Menzies’ ability to blend the hidden depths of his characters with moments of captivating, vivid imagination. Although his character appears somewhat detached at the beginning, Menzies expertly shifts gears, delivering a tour-de-force when his character is cornered. His physical transformation, shrinking before our eyes, and sensitive portrayal of a man whose soul is irreparably shattered. All in all, Tobias Menzies proves, once again, his ability to deliver a nuanced performance, with a tear constantly sparkling in the corner of his eyes.

The Hunt

From the supporting cast, Myanna Buring and Alex Hassell deliver standout performances as parents on the brink of a breakdown and a couple on the verge of a breakup. Their portrayals are filled with intensity, care, and palpable fear—particularly concerning the world in which they are raising their daughter, evoking relatable anxieties for the audience.

The ensemble cast works splendidly together, with the choir occasionally stealing the spotlight yet guiding the audience through the narrative with playfulness and intensity. Not unlike in the National Theatre’s recent take on Jane Eyre (dir. by Sally Cookson) we „travel” with the choir through movement, sound and chanting.

In summary, this well-crafted, energetic stage adaptation of „The Hunt” is a must-see for audiences who appreciate thought-provoking contemporary plays, and a must to be considered for theatre makers on a global scale. The story is hyper relevant, not only due to the blooming nature of cancel culture and upcoming elections in many countries and the EU, but also due to a deep sense of division that is undeniably present in most parts of the world. Do we, as a species, too quick to judge? Do we have a tendency to get blinded by our emotions, especially by fear? Are we mature enough to examine different sides to the same story? Those are only a few questions a show like this will leave you with.

„The Hunt” also showcases a nuanced humor, which balances the underlying tension, while the symbolic and, at times, abstract directorial choices—such as the transition from the (shockingly powerful) gun scene involving Lucas and Theo to Marcus’ young man initiation scene—showcase the true strength of the Farr-Goold partnership.

There is no need for a grandiose stage design and bigger than life choices in directing and acting, simplicity works perfectly if one is gifted enough. And oh boy, these people from The Almeida undoubtedly are!

~ by Dora Endre ~