The Fox and the Hound

A long time ago, I learned that cute animals are a direct conduit to a human heart. Somehow, the connection between a person and an animal can bring tears to the eyes of an audience in ways that interpersonal relationships cannot. Classic Disney film The Fox and the Hound is a perfect example. If you’ve seen that film, or read the Daniel Mannix novel on which it’s based, then you’re still going to be a bit surprised by the Fringe production of the same name. It focuses on the human characters, instead of the relationship between the titular animals (the fox hardly appears), which makes it more of a Moby Dick story, about the corruptive power of hate, and how it hurts those around it. Presented with physical theatre, music and puppetry, The Fox and the Hound is a visual and aural treat, but it shies away from the events that make the tragic elements of the story hit.

The Fox and the Hound earns a recommendation based purely on the aesthetics and performances.

The stage is crowded with sticks, musical instruments, various props (the use of which becomes clear over the course of the show) and, of course, the several performers. The young actors of Poorfool are truly triple-threats: they handle dynamic monologues, demanding movement sections and Brechtian musical interludes with ease and grace. Only the sweat slowly gathering on their brows, and the intense concentration in their eyes reveal how taxing the show really is. All the things on stage are used to effect, with special mention going to the apparently handmade puppets that represent the dogs. The production values are high for a Fringe show, and though the clutter occasionally caused some tentativeness in the movement, as an actor approaches a prop left on the floor, the staging is well suited to the wild, forest setting.

The show’s biggest flaw is the way the writing prioritises certain elements over others. A significant portion of the play is given to monologues presented by a posh lover of fur garments. The actress behind this woman really sells the character, and her sections are always backed by a jazzy kind of cymbal beat, which infects the other actors with a little bounce in their hips. But the character seems to serve no purpose but to offer a chance to wax eloquent on the cruelties of the fur industry; what in retrospection is the character’s climax falls short.

Something similar can be said of the central plotline. The way the hunter’s arc is presented is subtle and effective, and is contrasted by scenes of a younger version of the man. While this contrast has tragic value, they seem to miss the point: the true tragedy of the story is the cost to the animals. The play dodges around the most horrible moments of the narrative, and loses something for it.

The Fox and the Hound earns a recommendation based purely on the aesthetics and performances. But prepare to feel like there’s a more effective story hidden behind the dramatic technique. 

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

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The Blurb

Poorfool’s new inventive and thought-provoking adaptation of Daniel P Mannix’s novel uses physicality, puppetry, and original music and song to tell the tale of man, dog and the ultimate obsession. Please be aware of themes throughout this piece which explore hunting, the fur industry and taxidermy.