As you enter The Showroom Theatre, there is a faux fox that looks dead lying in the middle of the stage, which has been dressed to look like a road. All over the animal and around it are white feathers. That is the starting point for an original, hilarious and entertaining show, aptly named FOX.
As the play starts, the fox (Meg Taranto) – fittingly dressed in white, orange and black, with a big bushy tail – rises. Looking bewildered, they shake off feathers, before calling for help from the stage crew to sweep away the same. This is a piece in which the fourth wall is also broken more than once.
The fox proceeds to tell us – the audience – that we’ve got it all wrong about the predator’s violent nature. They say they are a 21st century fox and self-aware. Further, in occupying 75 per cent of the country, they recognise they are hated – considered a pest – by 100 per cent of us punters … and by themselves. They point out their strengths too – that they are foxy, with an unparalleled wit and extraordinary body.
The fox lives with their friends in and around the highway that I referenced earlier. They are a crow (Clover Blue), a kangaroo, Jack (Frazer Shephersdon) and a wombat, Reggie (Ivy Crago). It is where vehicles thunder past at 110 kilometres per hour. Later, we get to hear how the fox and the crow became besties.
In any event, the fox can’t explain how the cockatoo (represented by the feathers) came to grief, although we all know … Still, the fox recognises they have a problem. They can’t seem to help themselves … feasting on any and all available prey. While frequently issuing apologies for doing so, the rest of the play deals with the antihero trying to fight their natural instinct.
There are run ins with a farmer, the farmer’s kelpie (Tahlia Jameson), a provocative rabbit (Aram Geleris) and chickens (played by Geleris, Jameson and Crago). What a hoot! Meg Taranto has written and stars in a largely intoxicating work, in which creativity abounds. In crafting FOX, she has let her imagination run free and she is sensational in the lead. Her affectations are priceless.
Aram Geleris’ baiting turn as a rabbit and his riotous antics as a chicken are just a couple of the show’s many highlights. So, too, Tahlia Jameson’s doggy charms. In fact, all the actors do fine jobs inhabiting the characteristics of the animals intrinsic to the plot. They have heaps of fun and play things up for all they are worth. Many scenes represent comedy central – simply laugh aloud funny.
Mind you, behind all the revelry is the very real threat that introduced species have made to Australia’s native flora and fauna. A number are referenced in the play.
The set design and costuming are superb, both the endeavour of Isabella Edwards. I have already mentioned the fox, but Edwards also excels with the other players and the simple but evocative set is a big winner. The sound design by composers Clover Blue and Solomon Rumble, the latter of whom is also the director, adds a further dimension.
My only real qualm was that the production appeared to lose traction after a pivotal scene relatively late in the piece when the fox again couldn’t help themselves. Thereafter, FOX the play seemed to struggle. Much of the humour was lost and I felt it fell flat, limping to the finishing line. It was almost as if Taranto didn’t really know where to go after we witnessed a second feathered frenzy.
Still, the lion’s share of Three Bags Fool’s hour-long, initial offering, knocked it out of the park. The company, which walks on the wild side, is well worth following.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Climbers (fortyfivedownstairs) – theatre review
- The Wind in the Willows (The Australian Shakespeare Company) – theatre review
- Alice in Wonderland (Athenaeum Theatre) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.