Friday, 19 July 2013

Foxfinder, July 19, 2013 ***1/2

By Dawn King,  Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Red Stitch Actors Theatre, St Kilda, July 19 until Aug 17, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 19, 2013
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun online and in print on Sunday July 21, 2013. KH 

David Whiteley & Joanne Trentini
The onstage rain in Foxfinder, just like the external Melbourne winter downpour, was caused by bad luck or bad weather, not an insidious, unnatural event triggered by an infestation of foxes.

In playwright Dawn King’s fictional England, foxes are irrationally deemed to be the cause of all evils yet, despite their evident eradication, a team of bureaucratic Foxfinders investigates farmers and hunts for any remaining, sly foxes.

Judith (Joanne Trentini) and Samuel’s (David Whiteley) farm suffers calamitous incidents: their son drowns, their crops fail, food is scarce, Samuel is ill and, to make things worse, an obsessional Foxfinder (Matthew Whitty) arrives to inspect their farm for corruption.

Kat Henry directs a strong cast (Trentini, Whiteley, Whitty, Rosie Lockhart) in King’s eerie, allegorical, 2011 play that portrays a dystopian world in which those who deny the existence or negative powers of foxes are punished as ‘collaborators’.

With a plot that echoes the witch-hunt in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, Foxfinder has themes of perpetuation of false beliefs through brainwashing, fear, guilt, blame and lies, all overseen by an Orwellian Big Brother-style British nanny state.

The characters and relationships are compelling but, unlike Miller’s play that criticises US Anti-Communist hysteria, King’s story lacks a specific target, so it has less social-political resonance, and the fox metaphor eventually wears thin.

As William the monkish Foxfinder with the emotional intelligence of a gnat, Whitty cleverly balances boyish naivetรจ with menace, and he makes William’s pedantry and irrationality resemble that of a religious fundamentalist justifying his prejudice and cruelty.

Whiteley is sympathetic, credible and unpredictable as the gruff, suspicious and grieving farmer, Samuel, who struggles to understand his son’s death and to save his farm and his marriage.

As his wife Judith, Trentini is feisty and stoical as she searches for a way to appease the foxfinder and protect her husband, while Lockhart as her friend Sarah effectively plays a frightened but determined doubter.

Foxfinder spins a good yarn despite its critical target remaining unspecified.

By Kate Herbert

Directed by Kat Henry
Cast: David Whiteley, Matthew Whitty, Rosie Lockhart. Joanne Trentini

No comments:

Post a Comment