Touring – reviewed at Greenwich Theatre
* Content warning* FOX explores sensitive themes of postnatal depression and includes mentions of baby loss.
Following a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019, and a Covid-induced hiatus, Katie Guicciardi’s FOX is finally out on tour. Inspired by real-life events, this witty one-hander offers a candid insight into the isolation of new motherhood. Mummy joined a room full of tiny humans and their grown-ups for a baby-friendly performance of FOX at Greenwich Theatre.
Guicciardi plays a first-time mother alone at home with a newborn. Her husband works long hours and she’s past the preliminary stage of parenting where friends come round to coo at the baby. Isolated and exhausted, she starts to develop an obsession with the homeless man who has taken up residence on the wall outside her house. But as she agonises over whether and how she can support him, she starts to come to the realisation that he’s not the only one in need of help.
It’s a much-needed production which aims to open up conversations about how incredibly lonely motherhood can be, and how hard it can be to ask for help. We see how Guicciardi’s unnamed character feels as if she has lost her identity and struggles with conflicting feelings; she desperately want to talk about the reality of her situation but feels guilty if she doesn’t give the picture-perfect impression of parenting that everyone expects.
It was clear from the post-show Q&A that many of the character’s experiences resonated for the audience, especially the idea that women are expected to internalise their feelings instead of speaking openly about common experiences such as miscarriages and postnatal depression. Fear of being judged seems to be a familiar rationale for the prevalent approach of suffering in silence instead of seeking support.
The homeless man story (inspired by Guicciardi’s own experiences while at home as a new mum) offers an interesting parallel which really brings some of these issues into focus. We see the same sorts of feelings play out here, with her guilt about getting things wrong as a mother and uncertainty about whether to ask for support feeding into her interactions with the man. As time goes on, and her mind increasingly fills with intrusive thoughts, the two narratives become increasingly blurred to the extent that it’s not always clear who she’s talking about each time she pleads with an unknown listener not to “take him away”.
It’s powerful and thought-provoking but there’s also plenty of humour too, which gets darker as the show goes on. Guicciardi’s performance is authentic and relatable, and made all the more impressive by the way she managed to deal with the distractions of so many babies in the room at last Thursday’s performance. Lisa Cagnacci’s direction ensures that the audience gets a feel for the tedium and repetitiveness of early motherhood without ever feeling bored, while Alex Marker’s design (featuring a giant dollhouse) conveys a sense that the character feels trapped in a world that doesn’t live up to the fantasy of perfect parenthood.
Overall, FOX offers a refreshing look at a subject that is all too common yet rarely spoken about. With most venues offering baby-friendly performances followed by an informal discussion, it also affords parents a rare and valuable opportunity to share their own experiences and explore the themes of the play in a non-judgmental environment.
FOX played at Greenwich Theatre on 1 and 2 March 2023 as part of a wider tour. We received a complimentary press ticket to the performance on 2 March.