Chicago’s Forks & Hope Ensemble brings Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsensical poem to magical life in this youthful and ebullient adaptation. Faithfully following Carroll’s original verse, the thirteen-strong cast bound chaotically around the stage, breathing new life into the narrative.
the resounding impression given by The Hunting of the Snark is one of childlike joy and playfulness.
We’re greeted by the ensemble warming up on the large thrust stage of Greenside’s downstairs space. Their childlike antics and games set the tone for the rest of Josh Sobel’s production: a playful, energetic and imaginative experience that fully embraces the quirks of Carroll’s poem and, if anything, takes them further.
The settings are deftly conjured out of simple props – a length of rope, old suitcases and handheld lanterns become the ship, the island, the fearsome bandersnatch and everything else in between. There’s the sense that nothing is fixed and anything is possible. To further this, the cast glide, stumble and fall all over the space with effortless, wonderful physicality. The eight ‘fits’ of the poem, from dreamscapes to expeditions, are created quite effortlessly and not once in its fifty-minute running time does Hunting feel as if it is running out of steam. If anything, it feels as if it ends slightly early, although its abrupt full-stop is more a fault of Carroll’s poem than the cast’s efforts. It’s a testament to the performances that we want the piece to continue.
It’s difficult to single out individual performances in what is such an obviously ensemble-dependent production, although Alex Huntsberger shines as the driven and self-important Bellman and Errol McLendon presides over the chaos as a Carroll-like narrator figure with strength and class.
Everything about Hunting is in its own nonsense world, so when contemporary references are made, as they occasionally are, they feel slightly jarring. The commercial dubstep-lite used to underscore some of the movement sequences lends an undeniable pulse to proceedings but even so feels a little out of place amidst the otherwise slapdash steampunk aesthetic.
Having said that, the resounding impression given by The Hunting of the Snark is one of childlike joy and playfulness. It’s a production that glows with the power of the imagination and the magic of buoyant youth.