Ambassadors Theatre, London – until 5 January 2019
Imagine a world held hostage by fear and episodes of extreme weather, where you must be careful what you say or risk your very existence. Though you might think I’m describing the current situation in Britain, this is actually the gist of Dawn King’s Foxfinder. Farmers have rigid targets they must meet (no matter how much it rains and floods the fields) and are constantly under threat from the monk-like Foxfinders; should one of them report an infestation on your land, you could be instantly separated from your loved ones and the life you know.
Samuel and Judith Covey are nervously awaiting the arrival of William Bloor, a young Foxfinder who has requested to stay in their home while he surveys the local area. Waterlogged fields and the after effects of grief have jeopardised their output over recent months, something which Judith is keen to play down but William is immediately curious about – his suspicions are raised even further when he meets their neighbour, Sarah Box, and manages to extract information from her. Is it all for nothing? Or are there more sinister forces at work?
King’s play was conceived in 2010 and initially performed at the Finborough Theatre the following year. As well as this new West End production, directed by Rachel O’Riordan, Foxfinder is due to be adapted for the screen. Despite being written several years ago, its dystopian feel is very much in chime with Brexit Britain, where certain groups of people are at the whim of those in power – and all for some warped idea of patriotism. It’s also reminiscent of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, with this select group of supposedly pure individuals (the Foxfinders) holding people’s lives in their hands, with the ability to destroy them if they say the slightest thing, or move to act against them.
It’s a story that’s being told ever more frequently, as a sense of the unknown envelopes the country on the countdown to 29 March 2019. But just because the story seems familiar doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be told – in actual fact, this should be telling you something just as worrying about the current state of affairs. The play would benefit from being performed straight through, however, as the drama is just starting to bubble up nicely when the curtain comes down for the interval – as a result, some of the tension is lost and must be painstakingly rebuilt once act two begins. I would also like it to be a little clearer when this is all happening; the costumes, props & dialogue leave it a bit too ambiguous for me, and meant I kept trying to work out if it was supposed to be past, present or future.
Photo credit: Pamela Raith Photography
Gary McCann’s set brings us into the kitchens of both the Covey and Box families, as well as the surrounding land on which they live and work. Trees are ever-present, looming over proceedings and almost taunting the characters as they search for the truth amidst conflicting propaganda and the evidence of their own eyes. Simon Slater’s sound design & compositions, alongside Paul Anderson’s lighting design, creates an atmosphere of mystery and fits with the ever-changing mood.
The cast of four tell the story well; it’s a shame there’s relatively little of Sarah Box, as Bryony Hannah brings this free-thinking & outspoken character to life with customary ease, her naturalness making this slightly bizarre world more believable. Heida Reed and Paul Nicholls are excellent as the world-weary Coveys – Reed’s jittery Judith counterbalanced by Nicholls’ relaxed (if not complacent) Samuel. Iwan Rheon is ideal for the role of William Bloor, his ethereal looks and almost businesslike manner combining to set him apart as the mysterious Foxfinder.
Photo credit: Pamela Raith Photography
My verdict? A mysterious drama that chimes eerily well with the current political climate and general sense of unease – an atmospheric piece with terrific performances from the cast of four.
Foxfinder runs at the Ambassadors Theatre until 5 January 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.
Post courtesy of SeatPlan: https://seatplan.com/
Tags: Ambassadors Theatre, Bryony Hannah, Dawn King, Foxfinder, Gary McCann, Heida Reed, Iwan Rheon, London, Paul Anderson, Paul Nicholls, Rachel O’Riordan, review, Simon Slater, theatre, West EndCategories: all posts, review, theatre
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