The Seven Dials Playhouse is across the street from the much-hyped Chick ‘n’ Sours. We arrived at the theatre early, so it seemed rude not to order some ‘disco wings’ and chips. As 7:30 loomed large, we regretfully cancelled our order, dashed back to the venue, and hungrily took our seats for Foxes. The start time passed. A contingent of punters were still whooping it up at the bar. It’s a small studio with cheek by jowl seats, so those who waited in the auditorium became antsy, confused and very warm on this humid May evening. One audience member stormed out and complained. He was placated and coached back to his seat. People continued to amble in 25 minutes late, clutching cocktails and clambering over strangers’ laps and handbags like a grim game of Twister.
It was hard not to seethe. By the time Foxes got going, we’d have had time to sit and eat our abandoned meal, enjoyed a pint at The Crown and stage a pop-up mime show on the Covent Garden Piazza. Being carefree with time and viewing theatre as a casual affair may be fine with al fresco shows in the park, but not on a hot Monday night in a cramped room in Soho.
Foxes, written by Dexter Flanders is a joyfully London thing. The energy, bants and patois feel like an authentic window onto a family home, run and ruled by a Caribbean matriarch who is never far from a Bible.
Doreen Blackstock is excellent as Patricia, widowed, hard-working, and wanting the best for her stay-at-home kids. Her grown-up offspring are endlessly disappointing, being bigger fans of Jay-Z and drill than Jesus and housework. Michael Fatogun plays Daniel, her gym-ripped son, who digs Stormzy, has a pregnant girlfriend and may prefer men to women. His best mate Leon is the object of Daniel’s affection and is superbly portrayed by Anybe Godwin who expertly nails downlow shame and closeted stress.
The narrative and textual realness of the plot was somewhat broken by interspersed dream sequences featuring expressive dance. While tensions and conflicts over the ungodliness of a gay ‘lifestyle’ rang true, the conclusion felt a tad tidy and unlikely. It’s always a buzz to see explorations of black masculinity on a West End stage, but television has spoiled us. I May Destroy You, Small Axe and Top Boy have shown that if you’re going to tackle the thorny, complex mess of men and their nonsense, finding new angles, nuance and depth are crucial and winning. Foxes is an entertaining show, but despite its large and lively London mood, doesn’t quite pack the punch that it should.
Playing until 11th June, https://www.sevendialsplayhouse.co.uk/shows/foxes
Reviewer: Stewart Who?
Reviewed: 9th May 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★