Ian Waller and his family enjoy a fun-filled production of the Roald Dahl classic Fantastic Mr Fox
So who is your money on, the cunning, funky, super sly fox out to steal a fresh chicken for tea or the miserable farmers with their guns, tractors and questionable hygiene habits, ready and waiting to stop him?
Of course, the wonderful tale of Fantastic Mr Fox is the creation of that master children’s storyteller, Roald Dahl, and be it a little boy visiting a magical chocolate factory, a poacher after a record number of pheasants or a wily fox out to fool the horrible humans, you should always back the character with the most fun and mischief, and that is what makes Mr Fox so fantastic.
This clever musical adaptation runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until 3 June and there’s certainly plenty involved to keep the family audience giggling along, as could clearly be seen and heard from the many children in the audience on the opening night, mine included.
In fact, in lots of ways this production featured so many of the aspects of theatre that I love. The cast are superb, taking on the roles of Mr Fox and his family, his troop of friendly animal side kicks and the evil farmers with an energy and wit that was infectious. While Greg Barnett as Mr Fox was a dashing lead exuding swashbuckling style and self confidence, it was Richard Atwill, Raphael Bushay and in particular Gruffudd Glyn as the three farmers who stole the show, at times both revolting and pitiful, they were hilarious in that wonderfully childlike way that Roald Dahl so successfully brings to his characters.
Then there was the live band, a clearly talented trio of multi-instrumentalists who brought the score and catchy songs to life, while also taking on the parts of singing birds constantly in the gun sites of those horrible farm folk.
And holding it all together was the story itself, complete with a drunken rat, an OCD badger and the level of childish splendour that’s bound to please.
And yet, somehow the sum of parts wasn’t quite as impressive as it should have been. For me the two main slapstick style scenes, where the heroes break into the hen house and Mr Fox tackles the evil rat, were both overlong and simply lacking the timing and sharpness that was really needed to make them shine. This wasn’t helped by an occasional lack of clear diction during the songs, making the words difficult to hear.
Did my family and I enjoy the production? Yes, absolutely, it was a great story well told and in the always splendid surroundings of Bath’s wonderful Theatre Royal. It’s just, it wasn’t quite as fantastic as perhaps it could have been.