Fantastic Mr Fox – December 2007

6/10

Adapted by Sarah Woods from the story by Roald Dahl

Directed by: Steve Tiplady

Company: Little Angel Theatre

Venue: Stratford Civic Hall

Date: Thursday 20th December 2007

This was one of those shows where adults like us can feel a bit out of place, turning up without any kids in tow. Who cares! We’re always keen to enjoy ourselves, and as we’d liked the Venus and Adonis that Little Angle Theatre did as part of the Complete Works, we decided to give this a go as well.

It was great fun. We were in the minority – most of the audience were significantly under ten – but that didn’t matter a bit, although we might choose less conspicuous seats next time. Right in the middle of the front row was a bit obvious. It led to me being the strange ‘thing’ Mr Fox warned his cub not to go near, as he didn’t know where I’d been!

The Civic Hall had been transformed from when we’d seen Noughts and Crosses. The only seating was what had been the central block before, and the puppet theatre took up the front of the acting space. There was a jumble of screens, boxes, sheets, and walkways, which I can’t possibly describe in detail. The set also came to pieces – flaps opened up to show us the foxes tunnelling underground, and as the nasty farmers dug down to try and catch them, that part of the set was gradually taken away to show how far down they’d dug. A section on the left became the food store in the third farmer’s cellar. There were lots of cider bottles, and a mouse which was obviously very happy as it could drink itself silly whenever it liked.

The story is all about how Mr Fox (the fantastic Mr Fox) saves his family and steals loads of food from the three farmers who are so mean they want to kill Mr Fox and his family to stop them eating any more of their livestock. He’s a great tunneller, so he can dig himself and the family out of pretty much any difficulty. His kids follow him and have a great time seeing their daddy at work, but there are a few close shaves. Will Mr Fox save his family? And will they have enough to eat? Of course they do. It all ends happily with the farmers trounced, the foxes and their friends happy and safe, and lots and lots of delicious food to eat. Given that the rabbits have also been invited to the feast, I was a bit concerned that some of the guests might not make it back home, but this one’s for the kids, so let’s not go there.

The puppetry was fabulous again. We could see the puppeteers clearly, as they were in the light the whole time, and wearing ordinary but plain clothes. They also did the voices, and had to be pretty dextrous to manage all the various puppets that were moving around at the same time. Once again, I could have sworn the expressions on the puppets’ faces changed, but of course they didn’t. Different sizes of puppets were used at different times, to give a sense of perspective, and yes, I did get Steve to buy one of the cuddly Mr Fox’s on offer in the shop afterwards (he’s so cute!). (That’s the fox, by the way, although Steve’s pretty attractive too.)

I can’t comment on individual performers here, as I wasn’t really paying attention to them at all – how on earth do we do this thing in our brains where we can see people moving the puppets and completely ignore them like they’re not there? But it was very good fun, and entirely suitable for adults as well as kids. So there.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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