Death of a Hunter

Death of a Hunter

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Death of a Hunter By Rolf Hochhuth

Finborough Theatre

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday until 17 April.

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At the age of sixty-one, Ernest Hemingway had attained the pinnacle in any writer’s life; winning a Pullitzer Prize in 1953 and a Nobel Prize for Literature the following year for The Old Man and the Sea. He published seven novels in his lifetime, including of The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon and For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many others published after his death in 1961.

This hour-long play focuses on the last hour of his life, and is an angry, paranoid and futile rail against the FBI which he is convinced is monitoring him; his illness, and writer’s block from which he has suffered for nine years. The poor man had been subjected to electroconvulsive therapy in a clinic, which together with his liver disease, through heavy drinking, arteriosclerosis, failing eyesight and loneliness, brought on his depressive state. His father Clarence had committed suicide when Ernest was twenty-nine, using his father’s ancient Civil War pistol, and firearms were part and parcel of Ernest’s macho huntin’, fishin’ and shootin’ lifestyle. There are few laughs in this taut, angst-ridden examination of a man teetering on the very edge, and there is a fateful inevitability about this once-great writer peering into the abyss. Edmund Dehn is physically convincing as the delusional Hemingway, puffing and blustering his way about the room, with his desk and neglected typewriter at one side, and a stool and telephone on an occasional table at the other, surrounded by the demons from his past.

There is nothing mawkish about his performance, and he does not wring the last drop of sympathy from the audience, as other productions might have done, but lets the story play out in a matterof-fact sort of way. In fact, he was right to be suspicious about being watched by various government agencies, as ‘they’ had him under surveillance and the FBI had opened a file on him during World War II, when he used his fishing boat to patrol the waters off Cuba, and J. Edgar Hoover had an agent in Havana watching him during the 1950s. “For whom the bells tolls”, wrote John Donne.

It tolls for thee, Papa.

 

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