Dawn King’s unsettling play is the winning entry and the centrepiece of the Finborough’s Papatango New Writing Festival. It’s set in an initially familiar rural environment, where farmers Samuel and Judith Covey have suffered a run of unfortunate events cumulating in the loss of their young son.
A foxfinder is sent to investigate, to search their land for evidence of “contamination”, for foxes are more than just pests, they are quasi-mythical things, bringers of disease and destruction – they can make the crops fail, they can taint thoughts. The foxfinders are trained in their art from a young age, their whole lives devoted to the hunting and tracking of these creatures, but few have actually seen them. Some people have started to question whether foxes even exist.
The play’s early scenes contain the unease, the not-quite-rightness of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, coupled with something earthier – a daubing of folk horror. Blanche McIntyre’s production is tense and jarring, the Finborough’s space reconfigured by designer James Perkins’ set so that the audience is arranged around a jutting wooden stage.
The performances are strong, with Tom Byam Shaw bringing a suitably mechanical quality to the role of William, the young foxfinder starting to – perhaps a little too willingly – doubt his calling. However, atmospheric as it is, the play loses power the more it explains itself and its ideas. It works best when it’s at its most opaque and cagey, when it drops hints and clues, when it sketches in pencil rather than in ink.
Finborough, London, November 29-December 23
- Dawn King
- Blanche McIntyre
- Cast includes
- Gyuri Sarossy, Kirsty Besterman, Tom Byam Shaw, Becci Gemmell
- Running time
- 1hr 30mins