EFR - Reviews of FOX

FOX

Mon 12th – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Lucy Wood

at 17:57 on 22nd Aug 2013

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‘Fox’ – based on the much-loved children’s book by Roald Dahl, ‘The Fantastic Mr Fox’ – is exactly what you would want in a children’s production. It is bright, colourful and charming and pretty near everyone left the room smiling.

It’s one of the more accessible pieces of physical theatre at the Fringe this year. It cleverly and quirkily depicts the trials and the adventures of Mr Fox. Rather than dialogue, a woman stands slightly off stage, turning large flashcards which describe the scene the audience is watching. At times the lack of dialogue can feel a little grating, as the actions become repetitive or even slightly confusing.

The actors were generally very good at their parts, with Aidan Cheng as a brilliantly creepy Raithbourne Ratty, while Michael Smith was a good, if slightly underused, Badger. The Young Foxes (Ellen Muriel and Joel Smith), meanwhile, well captured the bickering and over-enthusiastic energy of young children. The production as a whole was well held together by Alex Appleby’s competent and charming Mr Fox, who was a competent and confident leading man.

The production also made very good use of a beautiful, but simple, set. Each item of furniture and most of the actors were used at one point or another to depict changes in scene and tempo and the progression of the Foxes on their journey. They also made good but limited use of a back-lit map, showing the progression of the Foxes with small shadow puppets. This was a clever and funny idea and one which it was a pity not to see more of.

The textures of the piece is kitsch, 1950s and housewife-y. It’s not for everyone and the storyline can occasionally feel as retrogressive as the costumes – this seems particularly apparent when Mrs Fox (Ellise Kannah) and her daughter stay home to bake for the boys, while they have the time of their lives in the Cider Cellar.

While this is generally a good play, it tends to become alarmingly twee at times. It’s certainly not going to be to everyone’s taste. But, if you want forty-five minutes of good clean family fun, then it doesn’t come much more squeaky clean than this.

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Mona Damian

at 20:16 on 22nd Aug 2013

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A fun adaption of Roald Dahl’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ proves just how entertaining physical theatre can be, no matter who the audience are. The developing dynamic of the fox family was enchanting to watch. Lead by Alex Appleby’s hilarious Mr Fox, the young foxes (Ellen Muriel and Joel Smith) face nerve-racking underground adventures, all the while keeping us constantly amused by their bickering and in-fighting. Left at home we have Mrs Fox, portrayed by Ellise Kennah, bringing a bit of a 1950s feel to the stage. Her later appearance as Madam Toad demonstrates the cast’s versatility and adds an imaginative new character to the original story.

It was nice to see the production team experiment with Dahl’s original and the scenes in “toad cave” really were a testimony to this. However it was a slight shame that we never got treated to a rendition of the three farmers. My childhood nightmares were certainly haunted by these vile figures and a small spotlight did not really provide the same level of suspense. That said, every other aspect of the show was well thought through and meticulously executed.

The set design and costumes were fitting and provided just the right balance between conjuring up a forest scene and allowing the anthropomorphic nature of the roles to shine through. On top of this, the underscore was incredibly well put together, allowing the cast to silently evoke every moment of jazzy excitement. Particularly Aidan Cheng’s Ratty, who strutted out his part with admirable elegance, capturing his character’s snuffling nature.

The fun did not merely stick to the stage. Once the tunnelling started, the whole audience were engulfed by the characters’ desperate search for freedom and (more importantly) food. Some imaginative work with furniture and crockery helped keep the constant threat of the hunters in our minds. But the energetic expressions of the hounded animals were enough to heighten the tension, conjure up touching scenes of family devotion or bringing the side-splitting comedy to the forefront. In fact, the roles were executed with such skill that the additional narration was at times almost unnecessary.

‘FOX’ is a definite crowd pleaser. Well put together and diligently enacted, it is proof that you do not have to be a child to become completely engrossed in a children’s production.

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