Red Stitch's production of Dawn King's play is a thoroughly laudable production; intriguing, well-executed and enjoyable.
Red Stitch’s latest production, Foxfinder, by English playwright Dawn King, is a stellar example of the kind of quality theatre that can be produced with next to nothing but a good script, some talented actors and a director with a vision.
Set in Yorkshire, Foxfinder is an imagined vision of post-downfall-of-society Britain: the country is starving, farming quotas are paramount, and foxes are the source of all society’s evils. Not only are these beasts wily killers, they can insinuate themselves into your dreams, read your mind and contaminate communities with dangerous ideas – perhaps even with the idea that the foxes have nothing to do with society’s problems, have been extinct for years, and are nothing more than a scapegoat. Err... fox. Scapefox.
A young farming couple are visited by an ascetic government ‘foxfinder’, whose presence throws their lives into that particular sort of terrified chaos that comes with the presence of an apparently benevolent agent of an unforgiving totalitarian regime.
Red Stitch’s production makes use of an excellent set and some solid acting talent to bring Foxfinder to life. Directed by Kat Henry and performed by Joanne Trentini and David Whiteley as the young couple, Matthew Whitty as the Foxfinder and Rosie Lockhart as the neighbour, the production manages to be serious, funny, intriguing and shocking, all at the same time.
Trentini and Whitty steal the show somewhat – probably because they have the lion’s share of the lines. Whitty’s stilted style suits the cloistered, awkward Foxfinder hilariously well, while Trentini carries the work with aplomb.
Peter Mumford’s set deserves a special shout-out – a rain-curtained ‘front door’, leaking roof, and wholly genuine muddy back garden set the scene of England very thoroughly – and Henry’s direction made excellently (and comically awkward) multi-function use of the single, mostly un-propped stage space. Amelia Lever-Davidson’s moody lighting and David Maloy’s subtle sound completed the sketch of a rain-soaked, very unhappy England.
If we look up the etymology of the word ‘scapegoat’ – courtesy of the Online Etymology Dictionary – there’s almost a plot summary for Foxfinder waiting there:
'scapegoat, n.: "goat sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement, symbolic bearer of the sins of the people," a translation in Vulgate of Hebrew ‘azazel’ - the "goat that departs," but which others hold to be the proper name of a devil or demon in Jewish mythology.'
The foxes in Foxfinder are all of the above: devils and demons, bearers of the sins of the people, and well and truly departed. They’re also a strong allegory for genocide: the foxes stand in for the ethnic minority in a totalitarian regime.
Not to get too serious, though: this is by no means a long, dragging analysis of humanity’s failings: the hour-and-a-half-no-interval work is littered with light-hearted comic moments, along with the serious food for thought, resulting in its running time flying.
This is a thoroughly laudable work – intriguing, well-executed and enjoyable – and I recommend it enthusiastically.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Red Stitch Actors Theatre present
By Dawn King
Directed by Kat Henry
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Rohan Maloy
Set Design: Peter Mumford
Lighting Design: Amelia Lever-Davidson
Sound Design: David Maloy
Resident Wardrobe: Olga Makeeva
Performed by David Whiteley, Matthew Whitty, Joanne Trentini and Rosie Lockhart
Red Stitch, St Kilda
19 July – 17 August