Rich and full of life, David Alade’s Fox Hunting shines a light on the stark reality of young men losing their adolescence and innocence to knife crime in South London.
Alade decided to write Fox Hunting because he thought it was time the voices of young people living in South London were heard. The number of people who feel compelled to carry a knife is on the rise, with adolescent males being the worst affected (half caught with knives on their possession are under the age of 25). Fox Hunting is an unflinching dramatisation of the stories of real people who – while travailing the giddy world of teenhood, A-Levels, sex and love – are also in the grips of a threatening knife culture.
The stories Alade has gathered are full and rich; the audience is given time to get to know each character and understand the social and societal pressures they’re under. They also make the fact that the perpetrators of these crimes are just as much victims as those they stab frighteningly clear. Our characters are young, angry, afraid. Afraid that if they don’t carry a knife, they won’t be able to protect themselves – and risk a similar trajectory to friends who’ve been hurt already. Each story presents good kids with big dreams. They’re consistently smart and funny; the way stories are told even has the audience crying with laughter at times.
Violence, and the threat of it, has simply become a normal part of life – and as we witness, when a character routinely checks for ‘keys, wallet, phone, shank’ before leaving the house, the production is eye-opening in its frankness about there being nothing out of the ordinary for this demographic to arm themselves.
All five actors exhibit an incredible amount of talent, keeping up the pace and jumping in and out of characters and scenes with a seamless energy for over 60 minutes. Sometimes, verbatim plays have a tendency to be a little rigid but Fox Hunting gets it pitch-perfect with the cast injecting life and charisma into every story. The young company also make brilliant use of a black box space; multiple entrances keep the movement fluid, and the candles that burn next to a picture frame on the side of the stage serve as a constant and poignant reminder of the life-threatening environment the boys exist in.
A few moments in the script, including one of the characters climbing into a coffin at the end of the play, feel a little heavy-handed – and the metaphor of the boys as innocent foxes in a hunt could have been pushed further. But these are small quibbles for a show which shines with the honesty and inventiveness of its storytelling.