Written for Spoonfed, London Theatre:
Dawn King’s Foxfinder looks at a theme that recurs regularly in literature and the arts: the nature of belief and control. But she looks at it by fearlessly and precisely drawing a scalpel over the vital organs of belief systems as she points out their flaws alongside the reasons humanity continues to hold on to them so fiercely.
For these purposes, she has created four characters who each embody multiple sides of the ever-changing argument and places them in a totalitarian England that preaches an extreme form of socialism.
William Bloor’s childhood was spent in training as a foxfinder. Now, with monk-like discipline, the sex-starved, fully-qualified Bloor (Tom Byam Shaw) travels the motherland assessing farms for contamination. Though he’s never seen a fox, he explains that an infestation poses more than a threat to the farm, it poses a threat to the minds of all who live near it. Through Bloor’s ideology and his frank questions, King demonstrates the fear that comes with belief and the control that comes with fear. And as Bloor continually adds to the many frightening powers of foxes, she points out the invented qualities we give our enemies to fulfil the function they have in our way of life.
The farmers Bloor presides over during his investigation, are a perfectly matched couple played by half of the uniformly excellent cast. Gyuri Sarossy’s Sam is tortured by the death of his son and his need for something to blame is satisfied by his fox fear. His wife, a captivatingly desperate but strong Kirsty Besterman simultaneously tries to handle her grief, save her marriage and her farm all the while masking her disbelief in a world where denial is collaboration. She is supported by the brilliant Becci Gemmel’s concerned, fearless neighbour whose motherly instinct to protect her family is challenged by her need to question. Her characters allow King to look at her subject from multiple angles and though at first Bloor’s frankness seems too functional, it soon becomes part of his creepy personality, which is itself called into question.
The production’s combined use of a runway stage and eerily warm lighting plunges the characters into a harsh, isolated valley. The stage elevates them so that our eyes flick from side to side, cutting from character to character the way a camera would, straining their often painful communication. I was sat to the right of the stage but I wonder if the audience sat facing it were able to enjoy this clever staging as much as I did. Still, they would have noted King’s remarkable script and the superb acting in the clever and original, if not necessarily new, Foxfinder.
Foxfinder is presented by the Papatango New Writing Festival in partnership with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre until 23rd December.
Image by Garry Lake