Fantastic Mr Fox, The Belgrade, Coventry Tue April 18-Sat April 22
Fancy a Dahl-icious treat this Easter? This fab new version of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox is coming to Coventry during the holidays so book your tickets while there’s still some left!
Cool Swedish director Maria Aberg has staged plenty of death and violence in her career to date, so Roald Dahl’s well-loved children’s storybook must come as light relief. Many of the Shakespeare plays she’s directed at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon have been ultra-stylish in a contemporary setting and gender neutral. Her King John was played by a woman, As You Like had a Latitude-festival vibe with music by folk singer Laura Marling while her updated John Webster’s 17th century revenge tragedy The White Devil addressed sexism and misogyny in a neon-lit fantasy version of today’s celebrity driven culture.
Following Wes Anderson’s 2009 animated film version, Fantastic Mr Fox has now been adapted for the stage by 33-year-old Sam Holcroft, an Observer Rising Star of 2015 and former writer-in-residence at the National Theatre Studio and Traverse Theatre, with original music by multi-talented Birmingham musician-actor Arthur Darvill – currently Rev Paul Coates in ITV’s Broadchurch. This new musical show, directed by Maria Aberg, hits the main stage at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre as part of a national UK tour so, what can audiences expect?
Maria, can you tell us a bit about Sam Holcroft’s adaptation and how your fox will look?
Sam Holcroft’s adaptation is incredibly funny and fast – a really witty take on the original with a few new twists and turns. So, while the familiar story from the book remains intact, there are definitely a few surprises in terms of what happens to the Fox family and who joins them on their journey. Sam has done a brilliant job in bringing the world of the book to life in a way that feels very vivid and contemporary. She’s made sure you’ll definitely recognise all your favourite characters, but she’s also re-invented them for a new audience.
What were the challenges on putting your stamp on this classic?
I’ve really tried to stay true to Sam’s new version of the story, rather than harking back the original. While she’s written something very fresh, it also absolutely retains the spirit of Dahl. Sam wrote it very much without thinking about how any of it would be staged. And this means that as a director you are faced with numerous thrilling staging challenges – there’s not only the famous digging sequence, but many, many other things that we have tried to tackle in the playful spirit of the original.
Multi-talented Birmingham actor musician Arthur Darvill composed some jaunty songs for the show, can you tell us a bit about how the music is used?
We’re using songs in a variety of different ways, but they’re always integral to the story-telling. So, there are some big action sequences that are told through music, and then there are songs that are used to take us on more interior journeys of characters. The music is constant throughout and the band is present on stage for the whole of the show.
We’ve just celebrated the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth – what do you think makes his stories so popular?
Dahl’s stories are funny and vivid – they’re a bit rude, they’re grotesque, and they sort of sit outside reality in a way that’s really appealing to a child’s imagination.
Fantastic Mr Fox is heading out on a major UK tour – why is it important to tour shows like this?
It’s a fantastic company, the design is stunning and there’s a message to the story that is very important at this particular point in time – about community, togetherness, solidarity and what makes a good leader.
Verdict: How did Fantastic Mr Fox fare with the London critics?
The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner, who gave it 3 stars says its “sometimes inventive, and always good-natured” but could have been “a whole lot foxier”; while The Independent gave it 4 stars saying “while you couldn’t claim that it was in the same league as Matilda and Charlie – it’s great fun, full of gusto and glee.” The Times also gave it 4 stars. Their reviewer said: “the cast make a nimble bunch of deliciously eccentric critters”.
Fantastic Mr Fox runs at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre from Tues April 18-Sat April 22, belgrade.co.uk Tel: 024 7655 3055.
To see where else the show is on tour check out: fantasticmrfoxlive.com