Adelaide Fringe 2011
Horizon Arts (UK) brings you a minimal set and four angry, foul-mouthed characters in matching suits who dare you to find something relevant, and even vulnerable, about them.
Four figures glare menacingly at the audience before erupting in a cacophony of voices submerged by a pummelling musical track. The single prop is a clothes frame in which the black-suited actors occasionally assemble as if caught in a photograph or on which they drape themselves. The focus is on bodies, voice and movement – and, yes, buttocks, since the four quickly strip to matching undies.
This sets the confronting style for delivery of all but the final moments, replete with slags, sluts, bullies, misogyny, sexual capers, braggadocio, verbal and physical cruelty…and lots of swearing. In this respect it may seek to shock, but in the end does not. If anything it relies too much on such easy techniques rather than finer delineation of character. The actors struggle admirably with the freight of a script that favours frontal assault, and heavy-handed symbolism.
Intermittent choreography comprises a series of jerky movements, whose nervous agitation seems out of kilter with the main thrust of the plot, crudely interrupting its trajectory. Twyla Tharp, it ain’t.
The play speaks plainly of damaged lives that lack both self-respect and the intimacy of true friendship, and also of the radical changes wrought as they receive a little understanding. When the source of that healing power disappears, what are they left with? Overwhelming grief and the threat of relapse into their former lives. The lingering question is then whether they will be able to walk from that psychological wreckage as salvageable people.
In the last moments, as they restore their suits, it is clear that the visual uniformity is unnecessary, even counterproductive; it tends to merge the characters and deny them the individuality that would be their own goal. The final voice-over, rehearsing a critical moment in the life of each one, is redundant and underestimates the audience’s understanding of what they have just seen.
Don’t believe the hyperbolic advertising; My Filthy Hunt is not hilarious or cutting edge. The potential of the play is evident but it is presently a blunt instrument when nuance would be more effective. The play’s shock value is close to zero, but its subject matter is topical and very engaging. It deserves reworking on that account to bring out the humanity of its characters, and to show them as recognisable ones who live and move among us, and who may at times be something like us.