Review, Gunter, Dirty Hare, Royal Court Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Gunter, by the initial synopsis, sounds like a story we know well. A witch trial, where the outcome either way is not a way out and where women have been condemned, sexualised and abused. However, Gunter is a little different. This particular trial starts with a football match. The richest man in the village, Brian Gunter, murders two boys at a football match, escaping imprisonment because of his status, gender and his money. But when his daughter suddenly begins convulsing and acting strange, it descends into a witch hunt for the two boy’s mother, who is believed to have cursed Gunter’s daughter in revenge, commenting on the difference of gender in finding justice, when she is sought after to be condemned.

A historical tale with only a small amount of fact recorded, the story is translated into modern day to try and place it in our minds as prevalent. The themes themselves are comments on gender inequality, patriarchy and injustice between women and men which is seen in today’s society, as much as it was in the 1600’s. This is effective in not placing the story in the past, allowing us to relate and to bring it to modern day. This is supported by the actors in football kit, beginning the show as we walk in with images of football hooligans projected onto the back wall and the continued inclusion of multi-media throughout. It is important that we don’t push the story into the past, making it seem like fiction or the past and not really a reality. However, the football aspect feels a small part of the overall story and a slightly disconnected element as the play unfolds. Perhaps it is there to remind us of how football has been historically male orientated from both players and fans but this loses its power during the production, in a good way, when it is replaced by much more.

Such a theme, on the outside, would seem intense. But there’s something special about this production when it’s actually very funny. Perhaps the content shouldn’t be so funny, but how the actors and the writing bring across these nuggets is so superb and does well to help build up the crescendo of the end of the play.

Multi-media is used effectively, to not only modernise the story, but to bring different levels and different and eerie elements to the production, with microphones and a live band, unique songs and soundscapes. The immense energy of the performers is powerful and energetic, making me wonder how exhausted they must be after each show. Their ability to change characters throughout, with only their skill and nothing more is extraordinary. At times, I wanted to pin point an actor for standing out particularly, but this was too hard. They all were monumental and brilliant in every role they took through sheer physicality.

Gunter makes so many poignant and important comments on past and presence differences between men and women and the injustices in this. A historical tale, centered in a time of witches and magic, which can still be translated to modern day, but with some comedy, some modernisms and an overall fantastic tour de force of theatre.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get The Chance has a firm but friendly comments policy.