This dystopian drama gets a West End outing after a successful run at the Finborough Theatre back in 2011.
The wonderful intimacy of its previous home is now unfortunately lost with this somewhat patchy production suffering as a result. The plot remains as intriguing as ever however and thankfully just about holds our attention.
Samuel and Judith live on a farmhouse somewhere in rural England. It’s a time when both the weather and animals have turned against us.
Urban food rationing is in place and urbanites rely totally on the home-grown produce of the farmers. (Did playwright Dawn King envision a no-deal Brexit?)
It’s certainly a powerful and timely premise that hits home. The state spreads fear and propaganda that foxes are an evil menace which threaten the rural communities and their food production.
When Samuel and Judith don’t meet their food quota and fall behind, it’s suspected that an infestation of foxes may be to blame. Enter 19-year-old government Foxfinder William.
The main problem is that this should be a tense and unsettling thriller but unfortunately this production doesn’t quite get there.
The stakes aren’t high enough and any sense of real danger happens too late which is a shame. That said the gloomy and stark world these characters inhabit is beautifully designed by Gary McCann with a real sense of the dark forbidding world of the forest bearing down and enveloping the bleak farmhouse.
Paul Nicholls as Samuel gives a brooding intensity to his performance. His initial discomfort and anger at being investigated gives way to a more personal pain and anguish.
There is lovely work from Bryony Hannah as the neighbour Sarah who’s actions and behaviour help create much of the fear and suspicion of this world.
Iwan Rheon as the Foxfinder William had an unfortunate stumble over lines however managed to portray a sinister and cold young teenager who is a complete product of the totalitarian state to which he serves.
Although lacking in depth this is an entertaining production. A world that is chillingly not hard to imagine and certainly draws more than a few uncomfortable parallels to our own.
Foxfinder plays at the Ambassadors Theatre until January 5, 2019.
Rating – 3*
Words by Matthew Hyde