Black Deer in Blizzard, presented by Fly The Next Productions for the Hamilton Fringe Festival 2021, is an intense and intelligent psychological thriller. Seamlessly blending the best qualities of live theatre and cinema, this stylish production is an absolute treat from start to finish.
Beverly Campbell (Gwyneth McFall-Gorman) is an ambitious reporter, struggling to escape the small-town station that is quite literally falling apart around her. She has a decent rapport with station master, Tim (Tom Lute), but even their shared history can’t withstand her ruthless drive for success. Tensions rise to a fever pitch when her career-making opportunity to interview reclusive artist Regina Wright (Megan Legesse) suddenly turns sour once she is revealed to be an imposter named Katrina.
All three actors give nuanced, probing performances. And they have substantial material to unpack. Steven Griffin’s script is a tight, insightful and electrifying examination of power dynamics, journalistic integrity and ambition.
Griffin’s direction is full of kinetic, immersive filmmaking. With the exception of the final interview segment, most of the film’s running time is made up of extended, hand-held single takes. Jordan Dawson’s camerawork is a precise, fluid, deceptively understated dance with the actors.
Theatrical artifice abounds as the camera takes in the lighting equipment fully on display. Nathan Bruce’s atmospheric lighting and sound design also contribute to this deliberately stagey aesthetic. All of this draws you into the surreal qualities of the story—specifically, the eerily allegorical circumstances of this isolated, deserted, crumbling news station.
There are moments that still haunt me, specifically between Beverly and Katrina. I both miss these characters and wish they’d leave me alone. McFall-Gorman and Legesse have to secure our investment in characters that aren’t particularly likeable; by laying bare their abject humanity, they succeed—and it is absolutely thrilling. Black Deer in Blizzard is kind of a masterpiece.