The Trophy Hunt. Photo by Jaclyn Turner

A secret location, caped guides and hunting satire in The Trophy Hunt

Big game, whimsy and a novel experience at the Fringe Fest.

The location of The Trophy Hunt, a new outdoor play written by Trina Davies and directed by Paul Van Dyck, is undisclosed until you pick up your ticket, but when you approach this mystery intersection you’ll soon note the presence of actors serving as your “guides.” They’re the ones wearing capes. The more eager of the two will approach you (you whose eyes are searching the ground furtively in the pose of the eternal nonparticipant) with the shouted greeting, “Hi, are you here for the Trophy Hunt? Amazing!” This greeting is repeated again and again, to all the stragglers approaching, in a freakily AI-like embodiment of a camp counsellor.

The premise for The Trophy Hunt is loosely based on the notion of big-game hunting in the broadest possible sense. We encounter, following our guides, a hunter, a man who helps rich people hunt, and a hunted creature. Yet think for a moment about the kind of global elite who pay for the “canned” hunting of endangered species, about the complex networks of poachers and conservationists and all the money and greased palms. Davies, however, has tried very hard to turn a story about global capital and wildlife into a whimsical fairy tale, at least sort of, an approach which is both confusing and which forces her to be very vague with her storytelling. Critique is limited to pot-shots at social media, and all the while there’s a chorus dressed in animal masks, prancing to the sounds of a flute player. What was that again about big game hunting?

Our two guides, Rebecca Bauer and Stefanie Buxton, enjoy a little banter with one another as the show begins, and their actual interaction is by far the most entertaining moment in The Trophy Hunt. With the exception of the silent chorus, no character ever again has even the most cursory spoken contact with the others, leaving us with encapsulated and completely disjointed monologues from characters whose relevance to one another is purely abstract.

This blame, I believe, falls squarely on Davies, whose banal and long-winded monologues betray such whisper-thin characterization that any emotion we might feel is from an actor’s arbitrarily raised voice rather than from any real stakes. The monologues are impersonal and dishonest because any detail is tacked on in meandering spurts, never out of necessity. If the performances are a little sputtery and vague, it’s because the content itself is utterly unconvincing. The greatest narrative continuity comes from repeated jokes about the audience’s physical fitness and health and overall deliciousness that all point towards some punchline about being eaten that never quite lands.

The Trophy Hunt often feels like children’s entertainment for adults still nostalgic for that sort of thing. For those of us whose inner child has for many years, as the Germans say, been looking at the radishes from below, the feeling of forced quirkiness is hollow indeed. ■

The Trophy Hunt continues June 5-16, 7-8:10 p.m. Meeting location at Off X Info Kiosk at the Parc des Amériques (Rachel & St-Laurent), $12