Review: Fantastic Mr Fox, New Theatre

Fantastic Mr Fox, Tuesday 21st February, New Theatre, Reviewer: Ashley Boyle

Any ‘human bean’ who has ever had the pleasure of reading a Roald Dahl novel will know how energetic and engaging the stories are, be it in a chocolate factory, a monkey circus or Giant Country, and this adaptation of his much loved Fantastic Mr Fox story truly brings the pages to life.

Fantastic Mr Fox tells the story of three farmers – Boggis, Bunce and Bean – who try to outwit and catch a rather cunning fox. Mr Fox steals chickens, turkeys and cider from all three of the farmers, weaving in and out of their traps to feed his family and the rest of the animals who live underground. However, when he farmers find out where the fox has been hiding all these years, they waste no time in taking drastic measures to make sure that he is caught, putting all of the animals in danger.

Right from the start, the performance in New Theatre kicked off with oodles of energy, with all principal animal characters dancing and singing to the songs penned by Arthur Darvill. He hoped that the audience would “take away melodies that they can sing on their way home” and managed this effortlessly, keeping the audience entertained with witty lyrics and toe-tapping rhythms. The three birds, who also acted as the shows band, helped to set the mood and maintain an upbeat atmosphere throughout the show, while also adding comedic effect with slapstick sound effects.

The costumes took on a modern twist, with the characters not dressed in typical animal suits. Instead, their clothing represented the character rather than the species. Mr Fox and Mrs Fox both sported bright orange track suits, trainers and a large bushy tail. This linked well with their agile and energetic characteristics. Kit, the fox cub, wore an orange big, similar to those worn by young footballers when in training, which showed that she was still learning the tricks of the trade and was yet to join her parents on one of their escapades. Badger, a character who preferred to thoroughly plan and assess the situations that were thrust upon them, wore a striped top, very similar to one worn by a referee. The most energetic character, Rabbit, wore fluffy white leg warmers and a leotard reminiscent of those worn in 80s dance numbers. The farmers stuck to more classic attire, wearing dull shirts, overalls, wellies and aprons.

What was most impressive about the show was the elaborate set. The staging resembled a tiered cake, with each layer able to move independently to set the scene. This helped bring the story to life, allowing the audience to distinguish what was above and below ground. The spinning levels allowed for seamless scene changes that would otherwise disrupt the flow of the show if basic set was used. The clever use of props, such as the lamp in Mr Fox’s home, also helped to show the size difference between the animals and the farmers.

Overall, if you’re a lover of all things Roald Dahl, then the stage adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox will be right up your street! What’s great about this performance is that it emphasises the importance of friendship, family and teamwork, whilst also making the audience giggle. The music along with the characterisation and enthusiasm from the whole cast really does make it a Fantastic show guaranteed to make the whole family smile!

by Ashley Boyle