Fear and suspicion are right at the heart of this gripping and intelligent play, performed with great intensity by all of the cast.
Having first appeared at the Finborough Theatre back in 2011, Dawn King’s Foxfinder has finally made its debut in the West End and makes a strong impact thanks to Rachel O’Riordan’s chillingly haunting production.
The story begins with the arrival of Foxfinder William Bloor at the farm of Sam and Judith Covey to investigate a potential contamination – a serious offence in a world filled with food shortages and requires the farmers across the country to ensure that they are producing plenty of food. But soon what everyone involved in this case believes is turned on its head, leaving more questions than answers.
At first it seems as though director Rachel O’Riordan has trouble getting to grips with the plot, particularly in the opening scenes in which speeches are rushed through and making it feel slightly muddled. But as it begins to unfold towards the end of the first act, O’Riordan begins to have more confidence in the material, ensuring that the production becomes increasingly engaging as relationships are pushed to the edge and the suffocating nature of the society in which the characters live in is made clear.
While the production beautifully highlights the fractiousness of the relationships as well as the whole idea of ‘big brother’ is watching, it also feels like a warning – with ideas of what life could be like after Brexit and being increasingly isolated from Europe and the rest of the world easy to formulate.
Written by Dawn King, Foxfinder asks a lot of questions that aren’t really answered, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions What really happened to Judith and Sam’s son – did the foxes get him? Was it simply an accident or was there a more sinister explanation left unspoken? The cleverness of the writing ensures that the audience becomes just as paranoid and uncertain about what they think they know as much as the characters experiencing it.
All of this is heightened thanks Gary McCann’s haunting and sparse set that allows the characters just enough room to breathe but also shows how isolated the characters are from not only the rest of society but also from each other.
It is the relationships between the characters that are fascinating to watch and develop throughout, captured by some intriguing performances from the cast. Iwan Rheon as William Bloor is abrupt and commanding but the moments in which he begins to realise that perhaps what he believes in isn’t quite true allows vulnerability to creep into his performance that is interesting to watch. Rheon plays him as a character of contrasts – sympathetic but brutal when called for (as his final moments with Judith prove) – which works well to keep the audience guessing about his true motivation.
Elsewhere, Heida Reed as Judith has a great poise about her, never letting her character to get over hysterical or panicky about what is unfolding that captures Judith’s strength and resignation about the situation. Meanwhile, Paul Nicholls is equally effective as Sam- showcasing his descent into a kind of madness as he tries to uncover whether the foxes killed his son in a way that is unnerving to watch.
While there are some moments which could have been made stronger in terms of impact – particularly during the moments in which William attempts to make deals with Judith and Sarah, this is a production that is truly engaging and intriguing from beginning to end.
Overall, Foxfinder is an unusual addition to the West End but it is a chilling, gripping and mesmerising show that stays with you long after it is over.
By Emma Clarendon