Royal Court

GUNTER at the Royal Court


“With absolute trust between the performers, this is a tight and brilliant ensemble performance”

Gunter, is a well-deserved transfer for Dirty Hare’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 production to the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.

It is exciting and innovative theatre, wonderfully performed by three actors, and one historian who also plays the modern sound track live on stage.

As the audience arrive, the horrifying news film footage of the traditional modern-day, all-male Shrovetide Football match plays out on a screen – the brutal medieval ball game still played today.

The show is set in 1604 and is based on the true story of a Berkshire parish. Brian Gunter (Hannah Jarrett-Scott), the richest man in the village, kills the two young Gregory boys during the traditional and violent Shrovetide Football match. Because of Gunter’s power he gets away with murder. But when Elizabeth Gregory (Julia Grogan), the strong grieving mother, questions both Gunter and the law, the bad man shows his manipulative strength.

Gunter’s innocent daughter, Anne (Norah Lopez Holden), is suddenly bewitched, and of course, the witch hunt immediately points to Elizabeth and her female friends. So ensues the many trials of both Elizabeth – and indeed Anne.

As the story unfolds through song and physical theatre, the three actors each play multiple roles telling the tale of poor Anne Gunter. With absolute trust between the performers, this is a tight and brilliant ensemble performance – as the actors, wearing pristine white modern day football kits and the white stage set, gradually become covered in blood, mud, honey and gore.

Gunter has its quirk, as the historian Lydia Higman narrates the more historical facts – facts that are also typed in bold and lit up on the back projector. Sadly, Higman is unable to fill in the missing gaps – crucially that history does not know what became of Anne Gunter after the trials. There are no historical facts. Higman, even with her light touch, doesn’t add any value to the play by being on stage – apart from her rather fine musicality.

The piece is directed with beautiful minutiae by Rachel Lemon, who co-created the piece alongside Lydia Higman and Julia Grogan. There is slight overkill with the opening song’s repetition of the words “the bad man”, which is repeated throughout the show. We get it.

Gunter pertains to be feminist theatre, giving a voice to the unheard women in history whose stories were never told. And it is depressing that this is the same sorry story today, about every woman who has a bad man in her life and her voice is still not heard…. Not a lot has changed – and that is Gunter’s point.

GUNTER at the Royal Court

Reviewed on 6th April 2024

by Debbie Rich

Photography by Alex Brenner



Previously reviewed at this venue:

COWBOIS | ★★★★★ | January 2024
MATES IN CHELSEA | ★★★ | November 2023
CUCKOO | ★★½ | July 2023
BLACK SUPERHERO | ★★★★ | March 2023
FOR BLACK BOYS … | ★★★★★ | April 2022



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