Theatre review Starry cast fail to find play’s dark vision
Foxfinder starts in silence. A couple sit at a table, stiff limbed and eyes trained ahead. Their farm is on the brink and the much-feared foxfinder is coming to check for an infestation. If foxes are discovered, the farm will be shut down. The silence stretches on and the atmosphere darkens.
Rachel O’Riordan’s West End transfer seeks the tension of Dawn King’s dystopia but fails to summon it. The play has the potential to haunt and frighten, and O’Riordan has worked directorial wonders in the past, but Foxfinder’s vision eludes her this time around.
The play’s debut in 2011 launched King’s career and confirmed Blanche McIntyre as a director of exceptional dramatic instinct. This production, however, feels lost in its expansive new home. But although the staging is a tad clunky, it is the headlinegrabbing casting that has most neutralised the play. Iwan Rheon plays the titular foxfinder: he is the master of glittering malice – a look perfected in Game of Thrones – but there’s a lot more to this role than menace. In a jarring mismatch, the foxfinder is meant to be 18 and impressionable; Rheon is 33.
Paul Nicholls and Heida Reed (of EastEnders and Poldark fame, respectively) play Samuel and Judith Covey, grieving for both their farm and their dead son. Everyone except Samuel begins to doubt the existence of the foxes, which start to seem like a handy way for the government to control citizens. But Samuel, desperate to find someone to blame, hunts his grief with a gun.
The only actor truly comfortable in her role is Bryony Hannah as the neighbour, Sarah. Her eyes dart around the stage, alert to the danger not of the fox, but of those who hunt them down. Ambassadors theatre until 1 October