Set in a post-war British dystopia, the West-End transfer of Dawn King’s Foxfinder follows the events that come to pass when the government sends a ‘Fox Finder’ named William Bloor (Game of Thones’ Iwan Rheon) to stay with country farmers Samuel (Paul Nicholls) and Judith Covey (Heida Reed) in order to check their farm for foxes. If he finds them, let’s just say, it’s very bad news. His job may sound a little humdrum, but fox finders are highly trained to monk-like proportions, as they are told that they must keep themselves pure of mind in order to be able to catch the wily beasts.
Subtext is heavily relied on in this production, which can be a wonderful tool to encourage the audience to piece given information together, but unfortunately this is not one of those instances. The stakes are that if William deems the farm ‘contaminated’, the Coveys will lose it and be sent to the work house, which would be enough to send anyone into a frenzy. Their livelihood depends on his report, however, the result here is more apathetic than seriously worrisome. Scenes which are intended to be shocking and visceral fail to hit the mark, piecing together a rather two-dimensional tale. Rheon pleases as the socially-awkward official, his character William’s beliefs challenged by the older figures he is spending time with. Bryony Hannah also stands out as Sarah Box, the strong-willed next-door neighbour and family friend who is unwilling to take whatever the government tells her as fact.
The most exciting element of the play is Gary McCann’s stunning set design. The simple placement of a table and chairs represent the kitchen, and they are seamlessly paired with a forest floor and trees to aid the quick pacing of scene changes. My personal favourite is a seemingly endless staircase which disappears into the rafters. A curtain painted with the same backdrop of trees is also risen and lowered to take us deeper into the forest, but seeing as this is lit rather brightly, a sense of atmosphere is lost.
You can see what King is attempting to discuss in her writing – the grooming and subsequent brainwashing of William, the punishment of resisters and government corruption. You can see how this can be related to what we see in today’s media, but the hard-hitting message is unfortunately lost in translation. The evening is dark, but not compelling.
Foxfinder is playing Ambassadors Theatre until 5th January 2018. For more information and tickets, see here.