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Fox review at Old Red Lion Theatre, London – ‘bleak, bold but muddled’

Amanda Vilanova in Fox. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli Amanda Vilanova in Fox. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
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Charting the slow unravelling of a doomed relationship, Fox is a bleak, bold but muddled writing debut from author Harrison Rose.

From a romantic first encounter, to a miserable break-up, via sleepless nights being kept awake by urban animals, the show centres on painfully sensitive Stefan and impulsive, alcoholic Rachel. Both are unhappy in their own ways, but equally shallow and self-absorbed.

Rhys Whomsley plays Stefan with a disarming awkwardness that almost offsets his poisonous sense of entitlement, wringing his hands and writing bad poetry about his inability to communicate with Rachel, mistaking her dangerously erratic behaviour for romcom quirkiness. Amanda Vilanova confidently negotiates her character’s mercurial mood swings and simmering self-loathing as she sinks into mania and waking nightmares.

Lizzy Leech’s design leaves the space largely bare, but scattered with everyday objects – half-empty wine glasses, phones, sacks full of rat poison – suggesting the gathering clutter of a life spiralling out of control. Lying on the stage, each prop is outlined in glowing red light, giving the space the feel of a neon-lit crime scene.

As the story unfolds, director Rupert Hands ensures each item is tossed, smashed, or spilled, creating a satisfyingly chaotic visual counterpoint to the script’s fractured collage of short scenes.

Dan Bottomley’s fine sound design breaks up each sequence with muscular bursts of rock music and lingering electronic squeals. Through it all, a quiet cacophony of screeching foxes keeps bleeding in, keeping the atmosphere tense even when the drama begins to drag.

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Dreary, if smartly designed, portrait of a toxic relationship