He was an old man who played alone dressed in night clothes. His eyes were deep and downcast, looking to us for answers, knowing of no response. He shuffled in slippers and he cried out for that lost calling, a purpose which had escaped him. He showed us isolation and spoke of the voices he heard outside. He faced death alone, and with reason?
Dehn carries us with intrigue towards that fatal shot
Death of a Hunter recalls the last morning of American author Ernest Hemingway as he spirals into a pit of delusion, depression and self-destruction. Hemingway is expertly played by Edmund Dehn, revealing the true sacrifices made for art, and the extent to which one man’s purpose can bring ruination. The acting here is superb. Dehn is absorbing from start to finish. The blunt transitions between each maddening thought are clearly portrayed, and we gain a sense of desperation as a once great man loses his will to live… but is this Nobel Prize winning Hemingway in his last hours, or is this a pedestal for indulgent theatre?
The simple set of Hemingway's study in Ketchum, Idaho, is substantial enough to give a sense of place, and Dehn is well cast as Hemingway, both in his physical likeness and his display of aging impropriety. The sound design and lighting add segues into the more fantastical sections in which Hemingway recalls his hunting trips, or the painful visits to the psychiatrist. Even scribbling a cheque for the cleaning lady becomes a chore so outsized that the pen is tossed aside. We are engaged.
We’re an audience who know Hemingway, we know his life, his work, his battles with the system and with his writing, and here we’re in good hands. However, amid the screams and the whispers and the gunfire there is a sense of something ceremonious, melodramatic perhaps. We don’t so much feel the man’s pain; rather, we see and hear it, so we are one step removed and at times we are lost in exposition. The performance mirrors the subject - what is it to become so connected to an art form that nothing else truly matters? What is it to become so engrossed in the crafting of a piece that the show itself is perhaps a little inconsequential?
It is clear the script has been painstakingly shaped, but ultimately it is Dehn himself who carries us with intrigue towards that fatal shot. As fans of Hemingway we are prey to the details, and for those of us who recognize the pains of being an artist then this is an eye opening, superbly acted tribute to the plights that come from within.