Duck Hunting

5 Nov

In my responses to theatre I try to refrain from profanity. I don’t mean when I’m actually in the theatre. There, I believe, a little colour sometimes enlivens the proceedings.

No, what I mean is that I try to avoid swearing in my written responses. But for Duck Hunting, I’ll make an exception.

Let me invent a term: the ‘Dickhead play’.

The plays in this genre feel like theatre in First Person. All the attention in a Dickhead play is on a sole character – a male protagonist who treats other people really badly yet the focus is on his suffering.

Despite my derogatory terminology, a Dickhead play isn’t necessarily a bad play. It can be a form of cautionary tale.

Contemporarian Theatre’s Duck Hunting by Aleksandr Vampilov is an intriguing night of theatre. (And I do mean night; it’s over 3 hours long.)

Vampilov’s play has been contemporized. We follow Craig Stephens as he does horrible though mundane things to other people. Unsurprisingly, he finds this a dissatisfying life.

Christian Heath gives a very watchable performance. He’s in every scene; it’s a major monster of a role, and a minor monster of a character. (Though I think Craig calls every female character in the play a ‘slut’ for doing no more than he has done, so perhaps he’s best described as a garden variety misogynist.)

Christian Heath and Paul Gerrard (c) Toby B Styling

Christian Heath and Paul Gerrard (c) Toby B Styling

The rest of the cast do good supporting stuff. Directors Shai Alexander and Toby B Styling have created a stylized world; one that’s deliberately short on natural human connections. In some scenes, the movement is a type of mechanical ballet. In other scenes, the characters make no eye contact. (The occasional use of projection also adds to this lack of connection, but not between the characters, between the audience and the play.)

Part of the intrigue of this piece is the tone. It goes to a very strange place by the end. I wasn’t sure what to feel. Was it comic? Was it tragic? But I guess that’s one of the defining elements of the Dickhead play: follow a dickhead around all night and you’ve got to laugh, and you’ve got to cry.

Veronica Kaye

Duck Hunting by Aleksandr Vampilov

King Street Theatre til 29 November

tix and info

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