Why we loved Fantastic Mister Fox at Barn Theatre, Southwick

Southwick Players Youth members in Fantastic Mr Fox. Picture: Miles Davies
Southwick Players Youth members in Fantastic Mr Fox. Picture: Miles Davies

Fantastic Mister Fox is nothing short of fantastic – and not just Mr Fox, all his little animal mates as well.

Southwick Players Youth have returned to the Barn Theatre stage this week for their first full production for some years.

Having been revitalised by director Nettie Sheridan, the group is thriving and no less than 28 young actors take part in this production.

Everyone has a part to play and most are on stage the whole time, giving the young ones a really great experience, as many are performing for the first time.

There are badgers, foxes, weasels rabbits and moles and each group of animals scurries in through the auditorium, giving many of the children their first opportunity to act in front of an audience at close hand.

The ages ranged from seven to 16 and it was not just the older children who took the main parts.

Eight-year-old Evie-Grace Mott is Farmer Bunce and she does a brilliant job, most notably in the second half, when the farmers have to sit through the entire act guarding the fox hole.

They read through their magazines as the action with the animals continues ‘underground’ and the whole time, Evie-Grace remains in character, at times tapping on another farmer’s arm to point out something on the page. Brilliant.

The three farmers are all good, in fact. Harrison Viinikka is hilarious as Farmer Boggis and gets some great laughs with his clumsiness. The classic stunt waving his gun around, apparently hitting each of the other farmers in turn, is done so well.

The rats are also very funny, with henchman Alfie Redmond doing a great job after ‘hitting the cider’.

Sydney Colburn, 13, is Mrs Badger and does a very good job as narrator.

Luke Fleming, 15, as Mr Badger shows his experience, having been acting for five years, and demonstrates his fine singing voice, too.

The other main couple, Mr and Mrs Fox, are also excellent. Chay West has been treading the boards since she was a toddler, so she is no stranger to the stage, and Louis Johnson has really come on since joining the Players four years ago.

What is particularly nice to see is the youth production receiving as much attention as an adult production in terms of scenery and costume.

Martin Oakley has created a stunning set with two levels, complete with ladders, walkways and a fox den.

Overall, it is good to see everyone getting involved and it shows great promise for the future.

Fantastic Mr Fox is at the Barn Theatre in Southwick today and tomorrow at 7.30pm, with a Saturday matinée at 2.30pm. Tickets £12 from 01273 597094 or www.southwickplayers.org.uk

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