There are a few infinite things in the universe: greed, love and the elite’s ability and desire to protect the status quo. Giving Sidney Fox the trial that he deserves, Sidney Fox’s Crime speaks to Glenn Chandler’s talent of finding niche moments in history that we would not find in our textbooks, and bringing them into the light of day.
Timeless in its own right, this show is one that many true-crime fans will enjoy
Told through a series of flashbacks, the play relates the memories of Sidney Fox (Sebastian Calvert) and his relationship with his mother, Rosaline (Amanda Bailey) as he attempts to persuade his barrister, James D. Cassels (Mark Curry) that he is not guilty of matricide. It is well-establised in the period through the precise stage management of Joel Kendall, the eye-catching set and costumes designs of David Shields and the dance sequences by choreographer Carole Todd.
Thoroughly minimalist in every way, Sidney Fox’s Crime constantly asks us to think and question everything that we see and hear. Chandler bombards us with constant information, recreating the interactions between Sidney and his barrister, but at every moment we are encouraged to interpret the case ourselves, finding a dichotomy between what we may concentrate on and what Sidney’s barrister does. Chandler’s decision to make Rosaline a constant presence instead of sending her on and offstage lends itself to the seamlessness and minimalistic aspects of the production. This means we are not distracted from the rest of the action as we move between Sidney’s present and his memory, transitions enhanced by subtle shifts in lighting and projections courtesy of Joseph Ed Thomas and Paul Gavin, lighting and sound designers respectively. Whilst the fallibility of memory is not discussed or utilised in this work, when you take it into account, there is an invitation of scepticism, especially whenever Calvert says ‘I don’t remember’ or acts suspiciously nervous. Chandler shows us what he thinks happened in history, and due to the way that he has presented these characters, we are inclined to trust him, as there does not seem another plausible explanation.
Dominating the framework of the action, we see everything through Sydney Fox's eyes, and Calvert proves that he is a trustworthy narrator, grasping the essence of the character. The sheer magnitude of his performance is incredible and within it we can see Fox's vulnerability hiding behind the bragging of his various exploits, as he is not given proper time to mourn his mother. His variations of performance reach their height immediately after the verdict, as he lets go of everything that he has been trying to hold in. These scenes speak to the heart of the play; that those in charge will protect their own and the way things are done and to hell with all else; a timeless message, as from our own context the same kinds of people who condemned Fox are still in charge now. Calvert invites us to trust him, which we do without a second thought because of the way he presents himself. His manner of dress is dapper but in a way that seems like dress-up and his boastfulness of his crimes appears like schoolboy one-up-manship both lending to the overall youthfulness and endearment of his character.
Bailey’s performance as Rosaline Fox is richly nuanced. Fun and doting, she hovers over the action, taking Calvert in and out as she pleases. Her physicality is particularly praiseworthy as she gradually shows Rosaline’s decline over the course of time with the odd flash of fear or hesitation that informs her performance and invites analysis. Even when the action is not concentrated around her, Bailey draws us in and her constant presence onstage is indicative of the large role she plays in Sidney’s life. You can’t help but watch her, and she truly brings Rosaline to life.
As Cassels, Curry embodies the establishment, stiff upper lip and all. He tricks us into believing in him, in the law, in the way things are supposed to work, and that is where he excels, because we want to believe him; we want the happy ending and hope that he promises. Curry is a softer characterisation of the establishment in his jaded and witty performance. His fourth wall break to the audience, whilst it seems like a lawyer tactic, does not create enough doubt to prove to us that Sidney is innocent. In this Curry gives a clever performance.
Timeless in its own right, this show is one that many true-crime fans will enjoy. Incredibly thought-provoking throughout, it is impossible not to try and work out what happened. Something you will not find in your textbooks, this is a moment in British criminal history that more people should know about. A critique of the practices of the establishment past and present, Sidney’s Fox’s Crime is a call to action and the dose of reality that we need.