During the days of lockdown and furlough, having a garden has been a privilege in many ways. Both as a place to enjoy the outdoors and a way to keep myself busy cutting back the vines and brambles creeping sneakily up the walls and through the bushes. The best thing, however, is realising that there are two bright-eyed, bushy-tailed foxes burrowed away behind the compost heap.
Therefore, for my first in-person performance, following months of closed theatres, to be about a young girl’s adventure after finding a fox in her garden, feels just right.
As part of Iris Theatre’s summer festival, which brings together break-out artists and companies for a varied selection of socially distanced outdoor performances, Wild Geese Theatre Company have brought a truly joyful, family-friendly performance to the courtyard of St Pauls in Covent Garden.
Fiona & The Fox tells the story of Fiona, played by Jenny Lake, a young girl who has recently moved from the city. Although she hasn’t made many friends yet, Fiona is by no means bored as she has plenty of books to read, pictures to paint and films to watch with her dad. However, when she hears fearful yelps coming from the garden one night, her bravery and kindness are called upon as an adventurous mission awaits.
The company uses the outdoor location and limited props creatively, with the garden’s rosebushes becoming the fox’s den and the umbrella doubling as both a protective weapon and a flowerbed.
Fiona’s story is narrated by Andrew Baker, who, along with Lyle Fulton’s musical accompaniment on the guitar, provides a voice and personality not only for Fiona, but also for the characters that accompany her throughout her adventures.
What I find particularly special is how the audience is called to action right from the start, with Emily Bairstow asking us to create our own image of what Fiona looks like and getting us to create the sound of rain and creaking stairs. It’s this kind of interactive playfulness that not only keeps younger kids engaged and following the story with bright eyes, but also takes the adults back to the days when they were being told a bed-time story, early evening noises enveloping them as they drifted into the world of dreams.
The brightest star is of course Lake, who, while saying very little, acts with Fiona’s joy, wonder and bravery shining through her.
Wild Geese Theatre are experts at creating immersive theatre for young audiences and families. Fiona & The Fox perfectly marries the warmth of fireside storytelling with a fantastic children’s picture book. My first foray back to live theatre couldn’t have been better.
Fiona & The Fox played at St Paul’s Covent Garden until the 20th August 2020. For more information about the company, see Wild Geese’s website.