Fantastic Mr Fox is the most recent of Dahl’s stunning back catalogue of work to hit the stage, and despite the doctoring; it is ostensibly a loyal re-working of the book, albeit tainted by the talented work of Wes Anderson and his artistic take. Laden with musical numbers somewhat reminiscent of Flight of the Conchords, this vivid, enjoyable adaptation also reinforces a little of the political messages lingering in the air at present, as Richard Atwill as Farmer Bean complains about the fox taking from their patch, much appeal for both adults and children alike.
Dahl’s book synopsis is about a fox positioned to ‘outfox’ three farmers to feed his family and friends, with much in the way of antics as he works with Mole, Rabbit, Mouse and Badger, and his family to succeed in a mission for sustenance. Greg Barnett does a fantastic job at conveying this message that the formula for success is with the help from friends and family, rather than going it alone. Even his posture, whilst dressed in a garishly bright orange track suit, suggests a vain creature that believes he is as fantastic as his name suggests.
Setting the scene is a barbershop quartet of birds or chickens, who very quickly lessen in size as one of them is shot by Farmer Bean who is casually sat in one of the theatre boxes, indicative of character and malice of Bean, hinting at the plot of the next two hours and ten minutes. And it is not long before we are introduced to the impulsive yet Fantastic Mr Fox and his friends. Directed by Hotel director and feminist, Maria Aberg, the scene whereby Mrs Fox saves her hot-headed husband’s life, suggestive of her confidence and abilities to feed being at one time more effective than Mr Fox is apt and well-played.
Rabbit, played stunningly by Sandy Foster is an eccentric space cadet and while Mouse, played by Kelly Jackson, is obsessed with all things cheese, loyal yet overwhelmed Mole becomes focussed on all types of rock and material, beautifully played by Gruffudd Glyn. Badger, performed by Raphael Bushay, is a tad on the over-planning and careful side, with a cautious err in his step, and as we are reminded throughout the show, they are all different animals, with different designs for different intentions. However, that does not mean they cannot collectively work together for the common good, of which they do in the end.
Adapted by Sam Holcroft, with a contemporary score from Arthur Darvill, there is much reason to see Fantastic Mr Fox, whilst it is still on tour. The political undertones from both the farmers and a drunken rat are fierce, not even hinting at self-preservation only, which makes it as much of an adult’s production as it is appealing to children. A fun evening oozing in warmth and great performances, a lovely night out.
Photos courtesy of Manuel Harlan.
Fantastic Mr Fox runs until 20th May at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh and for more information click here.