Fantastic Mr Fox

Reviewed by Jenna Lambie Ridgway
Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Curve production in association with Lyric Hammersmith
Reviewed at Lyric Hammersmith
Playing until 19th February 2017
For ages 5+

‘Anyone can be fantastic if they have fantastic friends’ is the lasting message behind this lively musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. Teamwork and friendship are recurring themes in a character driven performance billed as a flagship production for the Roald Dahl centenary celebrations.

Fox Manuel Harlan.jpg

Photograph: Manuel Harlan

If it all sounds a little lofty don’t be put off, as this is a strong production with some excellent songs, clever costumes and live music. Certain voices stand out more than others, including most notably Mr and Mrs Fox (Greg Barnett & Lillie Flynn).

Mr Fox is particularly engaging as a sly creature full of swagger who suddenly finds himself in the midst of an identity crisis when he loses his lustrous tale. Rabbit, Mole, Badger and Mouse play prominent roles on stage and the story revolves almost as much around Mr Fox’s personal journey as it does the race to out-dig the farmers.

fantastic-mr-fox.jpg

Photograph: Manuel Harlan

Boggis, Bunce and Bean do not disappoint and are just the right amount of nasty to be true to the original story. Farmer Bean’s singular obsession with catching Mr Fox is a joy to watch and his descent into an altered state, maniacally sniffing the dirty fox tail he’s tied around his neck, is almost more Apocalypse Now than Roald Dahl.

With fun oversized props and rows of ‘dead’ rubber ducks, it’s the store room scenes that work best from a production standpoint.  The underground settings are curiously blue-green with rock-like objects hanging from the rigging, which made it feel more under the sea than under the earth.

It’s a fairly lengthy production and could possibly do with being a bit shorter in the first act. That said, it is particularly rewarding to see the young female fox child use her skills and cunning to emerge a hero and save the day. In turn, Mr Fox learns that his wife and child are capable of more than he gives them credit and comes to realise that what is truly fantastic is the group of friends and family who accompany him on his journey.

Jenna is a writer, freelance arts manager and fundraiser. You can read more on her blog www.mrsbrownsbooks.blogspot.co.uk. Follow Jenna @mrsbrownsbooks

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