The drum matches my heartbeat, my pupils contract at the orange sun, piercing over the hill in a grassy field. Trees shudder at powerful gusts of wind. In the distance, to the total contrast of the hustle and bustle of the surrounding area, an elephant slowly, wisely, with grandeur, marches towards me. This is The Trophy Hunt.
A new play written by Trina Davies and directed by Paul Van Dyck, this world premiere presented by Rabbit in a Hat Productions is a unique and immersive piece that allows an ever-growing audience to witness stories though a safari-like tour. Once you find the tour guides –– and they communicate in an endearing way the fine print of a public gathering of this sort –– you’re off, herded through the secret Plateau locations, occasionally stopping to hear monologues from the cast, or to observe choreography from the chorus.
This is a simplification of the immersive aspect of The Trophy Hunt, and the only way to do it actual justice is to go see it. Something about being outdoors and watching such an inventive performance is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. Because of the nature of the show, anything can happen. When I saw it, someone was having a picnic in the middle of where the action was, passers-by would hop in to the audience, and a dog seemed to have taken offence to the chorus. I will definitely be seeing this show again.
The cast comprised of Harry Standjofski or Marcel Jeannin, Anton May, and Maryline Chery – all of who portrayed named characters who would progress the story through monologues. Their performances were short, yet dynamic and believable. I particularly enjoyed Standjofski’s imprisoned hunter, Parker.
The chorus, portraying animals and dressed in mask, enhanced the monologues, or served as segue segments, bringing the audience to further action. The physicality and ensemble aspect of the chorus was beautiful, and at times I wished I had my camera to be able to capture their poses and actions. Pair this with live music and a nature backdrop, and I’m happy to say the chorus really brings the piece together; that was my favourite part of the production. The sheer number of them and their dedication to the physicalities of these animals often creates stunning landscapes and compositions. Definite shoutout to movement director Vanessa Rigaux!
In terms of design, this show is gorgeous. Everything looked so right, and cohesive. Costume designer Nalo Soyini Bruce brings together the 13-strong ensemble with a strong and recognisable design ideology, while allowing the uniqueness of each character and chorus member to shine though. The safari color palette, denims, khakis, hats, and more, surely fed the audiences’ visual appetite and aided in bringing to life the world Davies has created. There are no words to describe how amazing Ashley Lang’s masks are. They pop against the costumes and setting, the performers’ eyes are highlighted, they ride the perfect line between theatrical and realistic, and at least one of them even has moving parts. To have these masks ‘read’ and work with the costumes, even while in a busy outdoor setting with variable conditions and uncontrolled lighting is a feat in itself, and on top of this they looked incredible.
Although I rather enjoyed the show, I do have reservations about some of the ideas brought forth and some of the execution – but nothing major. At first, the show is presented as a hunt, as in the audience will be going along on the hunt. Through interaction with some chorus members, there was a notion and an importance brought up towards my map, and the “X” on it. These ideas didn’t really come back around again, and felt separate from the rest of the production. Furthermore, the tone of the colloquial and whimsical tour guides and their interaction with audience members off the top contrasts greatly with the tone of the scripted cast performances, and therefore accentuate just how scripted these interactions are.
All in all, The Trophy Hunt is a wonderful experience, and a very fun play. The message in it is yours to discover. Be careful of the weather, when I went it was a cold evening and I wasn’t dressed warm, and be sure to wear shoes decent enough to walk in! I will be seeing it a second time with friends, and I recommend you bring yours. This is a show for anyone who wants a (literal) breath of fresh air from classic theatrical settings.
Rabbit in a Hat Productions presents “The Trophy Hunt”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Check out all our other 70+ reviews
from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!
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