We are all predators: The Trophy Hunt, a Fringe review.

Elena Porter and Graham Mothersill in The Trophy Hunt, Broken Toys Theatre. Edmonton Fringe 2019

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

The Trophy Hunt (Stage 17, Roxy on Gateway)

Life is a safari. Tracking, stalking, embracing the thrill of danger to go in for the kill … this new play, a very odd triptych of monologues by Trina Davies, seems to want to locate the multi-dimensions of the hunt in frequencies built into human nature. I say “seems” because, I must admit, I don’t quite get it.

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The play extrapolates from the case of Cecil, a magnificent Zimbabwe lion killed by an American trophy hunter dentist, with ensuing international outcry.

The powerfully acted Broken Toys production directed by Clinton Carew is the third in a series of premieres by different companies at five Fringes across the country this summer. The production opens with a choreographed sequence that brings together the three characters — as we learn a hunter, a guide, and an exotic local — in a sort of dance of death.

We meet first the outsider. Graham Mothersill is a bitter American (by his accent from the South) who’s paid big bucks to cross the world and bag a lion. The hunter has ended up being stalked (“tracked through the Web!”) and trapped himself by global public outrage. He blames the guide. “How was I supposed to know it was a local hero?” he says, reduced to a hysterical state somewhere between laughter and tears. “I should have checked Trip Advisor….”

There is, evidently, such a thing as bad publicity. From behind the bars of another kind of zoo, he airs his grievances about the “bogus trial” and its aftermath.

Next we meet a world-weary, practical local guide, played by Natasha Napoleao. She has grievances of her own about her chosen line of work, and “the assholes” who pay her handsomely for “the experience of a lifetime.” She has to guarantee a convincing illusion of danger, and a kill. 

And what of the lions themselves? The third character, played with seductive feline languor by Elena Porter is a local, who operates on the principle that “I’m never going to be hungry again.” She talks about karma, and exudes a kind of velvet determination.

The performances are boldly set forth, and very watchable. But I couldn’t quite get past the obvious  — the distasteful contradictions built into trophy hunting — into something more involving and dimensional. The hunter’s argument that everything and everyone dies anyhow is so specious. So is the guide’s point about an industry in poor places built on selling death and blood-letting to well-heeled people from somewhere else. The most interesting character, carnivorous and amused and, I guess, doomed, is the last. 

The play is over before you know it.      

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