Review: Fox Hunting
Image: Elah Productions
Chris J. Gordon
The characters - Terrel, Lawrence, Jake, Darral and Joshua - converse about their experiences comparing their innocence to that of foxes that fell victim to fox hunting.
It is a play that aims to tell the truth and give insight about the lives of our youths today.
Fox Hunting came about because a young man believed that the stories of many youths in South London needed to be heard.
Created by David Alade, 21, it is a verbatim styled piece - the piece of work created from the real transcript of individuals - that looks at the stories of five young men and their experiences with knife crime in London.
Alade made contact with and interviewed four individuals who grew up in South London and had an experience of knife crime that affected their life and some of the choices they made prior to the experience.
The interviewees who choose to remain anonymous had their interviews turned into transcripts and then artistically into a play that brings about laughter, remorse and sagacity towards the lives of just some normal teenagers.
Presented by Elah Productions; a new theatrical company that supports new talent who are looking to tell stories in a refreshing and artistic way.
Note: contains strong language.
Theatre is often at its most insightful and powerful when it examines real-life and sometimes life-threatening issues that audiences either know nothing or very little about, except perhaps what we discover from the media.
But news reports don't always bring us the brutal reality of what is happening on our streets, for example.
Verbatim theatre - where testimony is exhorted from those affected by an issue and presented in dramatic form - is one device that can help us understand a subject, give voice to the unheard and perhaps urge society to take remedial action.
Fox Hunting is one such play.
In this case, the evidential material is drawn from the real-life experiences of those affected by knife crime which is now taking ever growing numbers of young lives on our streets, almost on a daily basis.
The problem is at its most acute on the streets of our capital, so its apt that the testimonies we hear in this play are from young people living in South London.
Fox Hunting is made more robustly effective because the playwright, David Alade, grew up in the same area where the scenes we witness took place.
A gloomy atmosphere pervades the start of the drama here, as 5 young men gather for a funeral.
That setting is perfectly appropriate for the subject and is neatly book-ended with the tragedy which plays out in the conclusion.
For this is a play about life and death - the mere act of living always accompanied by the ever-present threat of falling victim to life-changing injuries or even fatality.
As the play unfolds, we hear stories from characters who each have a different perspective to elucidate about knife crime.
Among the narrative we find young men facing disappointment, such as when one of them gets poor A level grades smashing his hopes of leaving his neighbourhood and going to university.
And we discover the rules of the street which dictate that knives are used to settle scores - "we don't do fist fights" says one of the boys.
We also find revenge driven by rampaging anger, and fear which forces boys simply setting off for a good night out to carry knives.
When one boy is stabbed, he pleads with his father not to call the police for fear of retribution - he doesn't want to be singled-out as a 'snitch'.
To be truly potent, verbatim theatre can't merely rely on the real-life experiences it depicts, however shocking and arresting they may be.
It must also be accompanied by exceptional acting - so that the audience can truly believe in the characters and their experiences.
And that's clearly evident here in abundance with each actor bringing superbly drawn and credible individuality to their roles.
Like all good drama, there's plenty of humour in Fox Hunting.
It materialises from well-written dialogue and well-crafted interactions between the characters - for example when they're arriving at the funeral and later when two of them are getting ready to meet some girls.
But it's evident throughout, sometimes providing necessary respite from the overwhelmingly sad moments we witness.
Fox Hunting is one of the most compelling and well-executed examples of verbatim theatre I've seen in a long time thanks to outstanding performances and true stories authoritatively and sympathetically brought to the stage with humour and unflinching realism.
Heartbreaking at times, Fox Hunting highlights what seems like an endemic and intractable problem, but also capably illustrates the need for urgent and effective action.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for The Courtyard
Our show listing for Fox Hunting
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