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Playwright Dawn King’s thriller Foxfinder recently opened in the West End. This new production of her dystopian drama boasts a cast full of familiar faces including television stars Iwan Rheon and Heida Reed.
In 2011 Foxfinder won Papatango Theatre Company’s new writing competition. It also led to King being named the Most Promising Playwright at the Off West End Awards in 2012 and receiving the Royal National Theatre Foundation Playwright Award in 2013.
Before you see her riveting work, here’s everything you should know about it.
Foxfinder takes place in a future version of England where something has pushed humans into crisis. Food, in particular, has been severely rationed, with the government tightly controlling who owns and tills the land. For those fortunate few farmers, there’s no room for personal tragedy or the whims of Mother Nature because annual quotas must be met. And all throughout the land there’s an ever looming fear of foxes, which have taken on bestial qualities.
The story focuses on the Coveys, a couple who are about to miss their farming target, and William Bloor, who’s been sent by the government to investigate why. Designated a “foxfinder”, Bloor has been trained from childhood to root out problems as well as hunt down the cunning animals that must be to blame. The Coveys’ farm hinges on his report, but as Bloor’s pursuit of the truth and foxes intensifies, things spin out of control.
Foxfinder is performed with a cast of only four actors.
Heading things up as William Bloor is Iwan Rheon, who’s well known by Game of Thrones’ fans for playing the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. In 2010 he won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for his role as Moritz Stiefel in Spring Awakening. On television Rheon has also portrayed shy Simon Bellamy in Misfits and had roles on the shows Vicious, Riviera and Inhumans.
Heida Reed continues Foxfinder’s star casting as Judith Covey. Poldark fans know her as Ross Poldark’s first love, Elizabeth Warleggan. In addition, the Icelandic native had the main role in the Nordic mini series Stella Blómkvist, and she’s made appearances over the years in DCI Banks, Silent Witness and Death in Paradise.
Paul Nicholls portrays her husband, Samuel Covey. As a teenager he received national attention while playing schizophrenic Joe Wicks on EastEnders. Nicholls has also been in Holby City, Law & Order: UK and The C-Word with Sheridan Smith.
The final cast member is Bryony Hannah as neighbour Sarah Box. Hannah appeared for six seasons as Sister Mary Cynthia in TV’s Call the Midwife, and was nominated for an Olivier Award for her role in the play The Children’s Hour.
Foxfinder is being directed by Rachel O’Riordan. Her Royal Court production of Killology won the 2018 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre. O’Riordan was recently named the new artistic director of Lyric Hammersmith.
Produced by Bill Kenwright, Foxfinder also features a set design by Gary McCann, music and sound by Simon Slater, and lighting by Paul Anderson.
The landscape in Foxfinder is an eerie one where everything combines to create a grim reality. The play opens with the haunting sound of rain – and it’s soon revealed the Coveys’ crops are being destroyed by flooding.
In the foreground their sparsely furnished dining room feels overpowered by the trees towering in the background.
Almost immediately you share in the anxiety as the Coveys sit quietly at a table waiting for a knock to announce the arrival of an unwelcome guest who will determine their future: the foxfinder.
From the instant he appears on stage, Rheon is harrowing as the eccentric, rather creepy Bloor. A product of the repressive government, the character’s presence instils fear, while his callous questioning provides some darkly humorous moments.
As the Coveys, both Reed and Nicholls give standout performances that span a full range of emotions. It doesn’t take long to realise their situation is far more complicated than it initially seems.
Although the world of Foxfinder is one where thought is suppressed, you’ll leave the show pondering deeper questions about truth and society, and how fear can be used to manipulate citizens.
Ultimately, the most intriguing element of Foxfinder is the mythic beast proportions given to a relatively harmless pointy-eared animal. No play has ever been so obsessed by a little red fox!
Foxfinder is open now at London’s Ambassadors Theatre, booking until 5 January 2019.