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Review: Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox

Lyric Hammersmith and touring
1st February 2017
Review by Ralph McEachern
★★★★★

Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr FoxWritten by Roald Dahl
Adapted for the stage by
Sam Holcroft
Music by
Arthur Darvill
Lyrics by
Al Muriel with Darren Clark, Arthur Darvill and Sam Holcroft
Directed by
Maria Aberg
Cast: Richard Atwill, Greg Barnett, Patrick Burbridge, Raphael Bushay, Jade Croot, Lillie Flynn, Anna Fordham, Sandy Foster, Gruffudd Glyn, Richie Hart, Edward Hole, Kelly Jackson, Tanya Shields


Whether it’s a play or a film, it’s a tricky business adapting any beloved work by Roald Dahl. Luckily Sam Holcroft gets it spot on. While some liberties have been taken with the plot and characters, this adaptation captures all of the anarchy, grotesqueness and macabre moments of the original. It doesn’t fall into the easy trap of becoming overly sentimental, and apart from anything else it is heaps of fun.

This family friendly show is exactly that. Your kids will love the larger than life characters, the catchy songs, the slapstick routines and the perils and adventure of the story. However, I attended on an evening when the audience was composed of barely 20% children. Yet, the laughs and cheers were coming thick and fast from this predominantly adult audience. There are plenty subtleties in the performances ( a few less than subtle subtleties!) that make it a genuinely laugh out loud experience whatever your age.

The characterisation is exceptionally strong. This really is an ensemble piece, with not a weak link among them. Greg Barnett is a charismatic and energetic leading man as Mr. Fox. Lillie Flynn is engaging and likeable as Mrs. Fox, frustrated by her husbands attempts to be a constant hero. Sandy Foster and Kelly Jackson provide sweetness and silliness throughout as Rabbit and Mouse.

It’s hard to pick stand out performances in this show, but if forced to, I would have to give that accolade to Richard Atwill, Raphael Bushay and Gruffudd Glyn as the utterly grotesque Farmers Bean, Boggis and Bunce respectively. A particular highlight of the evening is a musical number in Act II in which the farmers imagine themselves as foxes, possibly taking it a little too far!

Tom Scutt’s design is fun and imaginative. Costumes seem to be based around various articles of 80s sportswear which is effective and clever. Lee Curran’s lighting design used some impressive lasers. Ayse Tashkiran’s choreography is striking and original.

The songs are witty and clever both in a musical and lyrical sense. Special mention must go to Patrick Burbridge, Anna Fordham and Richie Hart, the actor musicians who so vibrantly brought to life Darvill’s brilliant score. They certainly pack a punch considering they are a 3-piece, all playing multiple instruments, sometimes playing more than one at a time. My one criticism of the production would be that they were not featured enough. The actor musicians, playing birds, treated us to an acapella prologue and entr’acte at the top of each act, but for the rest of the show were tucked away at the back of the stage. It just seems a shame to waste the considerable talent, particularly when the musicians were also providing the majority of the sound effects live. I wanted to see it featured.  

Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox continues at the Lyric Hammersmith until 19th February and tours thereafter.
Dates and tickets below…

London Lyric Hammersmith

25 January 2017 – 19 February 2017

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Cardiff New Theatre

21 February 2017 – 25 February 2017

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DARTFORD Orchard Theatre

28 February 2017 – 5 March 2017

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MILTON KEYNES Theatre

7 March 2017 – 11 March 2017

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Leicester Curve

3 April 2017 – 9 April 2017

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Oxford Playhouse

11 April 2017 – 15 April 2017

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Coventry Belgrade

18 April 2017 – 22 April 2017

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SHEFFIELD Lyceum Theatre

2 May 2017 – 6 May 2017

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Cambridge Arts Theatre

9 May 2017 – 13 May 2017

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EDINBURGH King's Theatre

15 May 2017 – 20 May 2017

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GLASGOW Theatre Royal

22 May 2017 – 27 May 2017

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BATH Theatre Royal

30 May 2017 – 3 June 2017

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HIGH WYCOMBE Wycombe Swan

5 June 2017 – 10 June 2017

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PLYMOUTH Theatre Royal Plymouth

13 June 2017 – 17 June 2017

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NORWICH Theatre Royal

21 June 2017 – 24 June 2017

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BRADFORD Alhambra Theatre

27 June 2017 – 2 July 2017

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SALFORD QUAYS The Lowry

5 July 2017 – 9 July 2017
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