EFR - Reviews of Foxtrot

Foxtrot

Mon 15th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Alice Harper

at 22:09 on 18th Aug 2016

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‘Foxtrot’ is an ambitious and complex piece of theatre. The show consists of a series of short scenes, each linked to the life of one girl, her experience of growing up in western society, and her disappearance. The concepts and issues raised by this production are interesting, particularly the focus on the way the media handles disappearing people, and how we respond to the deaths of those we know. However there are some points which prevent it from being a perfect show.

The performances by the whole cast are very good; they succeed in establishing what is happening in each scene almost immediately, despite the fact that each section is very short and not chronologically connected to the last. Each of the cast play a variety of characters with equal skill and every scene, whether dark and melancholy or more lighthearted, is entertaining to watch. Several of the very fast complex sections, with the cast all speaking at once, are particularly memorable. Despite the occasional slip up, these sequences work well and look impressive when combined with the synchronised movement of the actors.

The script is witty and clever, and tackles the issues it explores in innovative ways. Some of the sections are particularly imaginative; one scene involves two parents being forced to answer questions about their missing daughter in a game show set up. Moments of dark comedy like this sit alongside those of bleak solemnity, with an effect that is striking but occasionally jarring. The fact that the scenes are not in chronological order also means that it is sometimes difficult to follow what is happening, and it isn't clear that the disconnected scenes all relate to one character. The overall effect is one of completely separate fragments, connected loosely by the themes of adolescence, parenting and alienation. The answer machine messages played between scenes are the only part of the show that feels coherent, although they seem to be building towards a conclusion which never arrives.

This is a very slick and well acted production, but as a complete show it feels confusing and a little cold. Given the subject matter: a girl’s gradual disillusionment with society, this may be the desired effect. Yet the struggle to understand what is happening makes the show less enjoyable than it could be. A variety of important ideas and issues are expressed, but it is difficult to focus on the central character whose plight the audience is being asked to care about. ‘Foxtrot’ is a very clever show, but perhaps too clever for its own good.

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Laura Whetherly

at 10:19 on 19th Aug 2016

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When a young woman disappears, only questions are left behind. In this piece of new writing from Oxford University student Anthony Maskell, a series of non-chronological scenes is used to gradually uncover more and more about the girl, the events leading up to her disappearance, and the people left behind.

The cast of seven tackle the challenging multi-rolling with confidence, and it’s to their credit that, despite particular characters being portrayed multiple times by different actors (the girls’ parents, for example, are played by three separate pairs), the roles are still distinct. This flexibility also feeds into the way the cast interact with each other on stage. Clearly they have some great chemistry, and some of the best scenes are those where all seven are working together. In particular, look out for the scene on the Tube; a tongue-in-cheek piece of physical theatre. Special mention should also go to Marcus Knight-Adams, whose expressive and fiercely energetic performance makes him utterly believable in roles ranging from a leering talk-show host to a six-year-old child.

The fragmented nature of the show means the audience are always on edge, trying to work out exactly what’s being portrayed, and how each of these scenes fit into the full puzzle of what happened before and after the girl died. The decision to break up the gaps between these scenes with black outs and “voicemails” left on the phone of the dead girl is not particularly imaginative, but keeps the audience engaged with the action on stage.

Deeply unsettling in places, the play touches on some quite complex questions about identity, the media and coming of age. The parents’ blank stares into the audience while they answer probing questions about their daughter and their parenting is a particularly uncomfortable moment, but the play as a whole is balanced with lighter scenes to stop it from being overwhelmingly dark. At times, the writing gets a little introspective; characters have a tendency to pronounce philosophical musings on the nature of the place (“not even she was her”) in a way which can seem a little contrived, but taken as a whole performance, there is balance, contrast and variety between the vignettes.

Overall, this is a strong performance from a talented cast, working with some promising new writing. Although only a short show, it is tightly put together and leaves the audience challenged, unsettled and intrigued by the disappearance of a girl who is never even named. Highly recommended.

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