It's not just George Dennis' threatening soundscape that whips up the compelling sense of foreboding that clings to the mysterious opening scenes of "Foxfinder."

Judith - Kirsty Besterman
Samuel - Gyuri Sarossy
William - Tom Byam Shaw
Sarah - Becci Gemmell

It’s not just George Dennis’ threatening soundscape that whips up the compelling sense of foreboding that clings to the mysterious opening scenes of “Foxfinder.” Every element in Blanche McIntyre’s riveting, stripped-down production is focused upon maintaining the fear hovering beneath the elliptical dialogue in Dawn King’s award-winning, future-set dystopia of rural life under threat. The clearer the story grows, the less the material grips, but the journey is strongly and strangely disquieting.

Foxes, once a threat to the food chain, have been ruthlessly tracked down and killed. They’ve become a symbol of menace and potential anarchy promulgated by a government anxious to exert complete control over its citizens through fear.

That manipulation is meted out by foxfinders who seek out and expunge signs of betrayal. When William (an ascetic Tom Byam Shaw) turns up at the farm of Samuel (pained Gyuri Sarossy) and Judith (watchful Kirsty Besterman), it’s clear that the truth of their situation — their farm has been failing — is more complicated than they want to admit.

He moves into their house and encroaches upon their lives as, politely but piercingly, he interrogates their past, present and future. The scenes in which lies are spun and then uncovered keep audiences in thrall guessing at everyone’s motives. Both the withholding nature of King’s dialogue and the scrupulous controlled acting from the entire cast keep the atmosphere remarkably tense.

Yet once the situation has been teased out and the nature of the society set out, tension thins. Most problematically, the perspective shifts. Having puzzled at everything in order to see the big picture, audiences find themselves too far ahead of predictable action with too little suspense.

The pivot for the change of view is 19-year-old William’s burgeoning sexual desire which, we discover, has been suppressed by his training. Despite scenes of self-flagellation in his eerily lit loft, his explosion of lust is inevitable but is too signaled to raise tension.

That combination of sexual denial threatening a rural community already under pressure from authorities points to Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” as an abiding influence. Like Miller, King is at pains to point out the way terror can consciously be spread through a community and the importance of individuals standing up for personal truth. Here, however, the character that asserts herself is the wife, given real power by Besterman’s poise and calm.

King’s writing conjures an affecting world, made even more effective by James Perkins’s reconfiguaration of the space into a wooden runway stage. McIntyre has an impressive command of visuals as well as text and actors, harnessing the length of the stage to build a mood of paranoia with characters looming out of darkness over a great distance.

By the end of the play, the writing has grown too schematic to carry the weight of over-expressed ideas. But King is obviously a serious talent and the production is another winner for the tiny but enterprising Finborough Theater.


Finborough Theater, London; 50 seats; £13 $20 top

Production: A Papatango Theater Company in partnership with the Finborough Theater presentation of a play in one act by Dawn King. Directed by Blanche McIntyre.

Creative: Sets, James Perkins; costumes, Joanna Relf; lighting, Gary Bowman; sound, George Dennis; production stage manager, Goerge Ransley. Opened, reviewed, Dec. 1, 2011. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast: Judith - Kirsty Besterman
Samuel - Gyuri Sarossy
William - Tom Byam Shaw
Sarah - Becci Gemmell

More Legit

  • Because of Winn Dixie review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Because of Winn Dixie,' the Musical

    Watching the musical “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., it’s hard not to think of another show that premiered in the same regional theater 43 years ago. It, too, featured a scruffy stray dog, a lonely-but-enterprising young girl and a closed-off daddy who finally opens up. But “Winn Dixie,” based [...]


    Off Broadway Review: 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow'

    There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of “Three Sisters” like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater’s new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. [...]

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]


    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content