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England is in crisis. Food is scarce, the weather has turned treacherous, and foxes – though almost extinct – have become objects of terror, believed to stalk the land leaving death, destruction and moral corruption in their wake.
The farm of Judith and Samuel Covey has already been marked by tragedy: their son was mysteriously drowned, leaving the couple devastated. Now they are under investigation by William Bloor, a thin, ascetic young foxfinder, who sets out to discover whether they are the victims of an infestation with the icy implacability of a witch-hunting zealot. Seditious whispers among the neighbours – could the evil of ‘the beast’ be a politically propagated myth? – make the Coveys’ predicament more precarious.
Dawn King’s riveting new play, directed by Blanche McIntyre, is a fascinating dystopian welter of fear, superstition and nature in revolt. It has something of the compulsion of Daphne du Maurier’s ‘The Birds’; but it’s a thrillingly original piece of writing, eliding the historical with the futuristic, evoking all manner of religious and sectarian tensions and chillingly suggesting how, when authority rests upon faith rather than reason, the consequences can be deadly.
McIntyre’s atmospheric production is superbly acted by Kirsty Besterman as the anxious Judith, Gyuri Sarossy as her increasingly unstable husband and Tom Byam Shaw as blazing-eyed, self-flagellating Bloor. Rich, rare and deeply unsettling.
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