adapted by Sarah Woods. Music and lyrics by Ben Glasstone.

Jackson’s Lane 269a Archway Road N6 5AA To 31 December 2010.
10am 13-16 Dec.
11am 11, 12, 18-21, 23, 27-31 Dec.
1.20pm 13-16 Dec.
2pm 11, 12, 18-21, 23, 24, 26-31 Dec.
Runs 1hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 8341 4421.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 December.

Suitably fantastic adaptation and staging.
Burrowing up for Christmas in Highgate, this show’s come all the way from Islington’s Little Angel Theatre. In it, Roald Dahl skilfully makes russetly furry foxes sympathetic. Their chicken-victims are rarely seen flying and fleeing, more usually appearing ready-trussed like supermarket products, to be taken for consumption offstage in tiny foxes’ empty tummies.

For Mr Fox (his sobriquet supplied in front of their three offspring by Mrs Fox) faces that most formidable and hateful of Roald Dahl-type foes: the human adult – three pompously bumbling, selfish farmer-puppets in Steve Tiplady’s production. They huff around on the surface while the Fox family dig energetically beneath, combining escape from human clutches with strategic subterranean positioning for stealing the farmers’ produce – animals and cider.

If this were panto, “They’re beneath you” would for once replace “It’s behind you”. And there’s visual spectacle too, as Peter O’Rourke’s hillside setting is denuded at the farmers’ demand. Digging gathers pace with a couple of nodding mechanical excavators seeking to expose the Foxes’ lair while they set to manually with shovels. Suddenly the rural look acquires the appearance of a bleak building site.

But for all the clapalong potential of the big second-act production number in particular, this is more involving than pantomime. Apart from a late section when large puppet creatures occupy the auditorium, the animal puppets are surprisingly small, but this helps add pace as they scamper around the layered set

There’s a Wind in the Willows touch to the other animals seen – badger and rat, the former with a ponderous wisdom questioning Fox morality – concerns soon cast aside by Mr Fox. And there’s a vixenish reminder only to take food for eating, with no killing for pleasure. It starts sounding quite moral; these Foxes would make capable politicians.

Sarah Woods’ fluent adaptation and the skilful quartet of puppeteer-singers, ably manoeuvring around the sizeable set, combine the Little Angel’s usual technical inventiveness with their sense of speaking to young audiences in a non-patronising way, while the skill and detail ensure that people far older than the lower age limit of 4 will enjoy this piece.

Performed by: Charlie Folorunsho, Rachel Leonard, Andrea Sadler, Mark Whitaker.

Director: Steve Tiplady.
Designer: Peter O’Rourke.
Lighting: David Duffy.

2010-12-09 04:03:50

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