Fox Hunting @ The Coutyard Theatre

With knife crime rising in London, theatre company Elah Productions’ new play Fox Hunting is a timely piece that tackles this subject. Based on interviews with those directly affected by knife crime, the story puts five young men from London its centre, delving into each of their backgrounds to look at how they have found themselves amongst the violence. Full of thought-provoking dialogue and humour, the show is a good addition to the discussion surrounding knife crime in the capital.

A group of young men have congregated at a funeral. They’re strangers to each other, but it soon transpires that they’re all from South London. While telling a very animated story, one of them mentions foxes and how much he hates them, going as far as to suggest fox hunting should never have been banned. Another enquires as to why – “they’re just innocent animals” – which begins a debate about what innocence means, leading to each individual to tell the audience their story.

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What makes the play stand out is writer and performer David Alade’s choice to give a voice to perpetrators as well as victims. It’s easy to dismiss individuals and make assumptions when you hear about yet another stabbing that has occurred in the capital, but Alade’s text sheds a light on the fact that it’s not always as black and white as it might appear. One heartbreaking moment comes at the beginning of the piece when the character Terrel, effortlessly performed by Chris J Gordon’s, receives praise from his brother after stabbing someone. He is remorseful for his actions, but can finally be accepted by his brother as someone he shouldn’t be ashamed of. These conflicting and complex emotions are handled superbly by the ensemble, making the play engaging and each character sympathetic.

While the subject is a serious one, there are elements of comedy in the piece, which brings out some great performances from the cast. Alade as the police officer caricature is a personal highlight – completely over-the-top but an absolute joy to watch. At the same time, his performance as Joshua, a 17-year old boy murdered because of a case of mistaken identity, is heartbreaking. Although the show is funny, the humour is used as a device to add sympathy to the characters, and not necessarily to mock them.

There are times when the action does feel juvenile and awkward, particularly during moments when everyone performs in unison. But this is easy to look past because the show is entertaining as a whole. With knife violence currently being such a normality for young people from London, Fox Hunting is an honest, real-life look at its effects. Even if though it is upsetting to watch at points, the play is a valuable source for larger conversations.

Fox Hunting is at The Courtyard Theatre until 19th May.

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Acorn @ The Courtyard Theatre

In this hour long dark comedy, Maud Dromgoole displaces the mythical stories of Persephone and Eurydice into the present, using these characters to explore the roles of women in modern society. Even though it starts off slowly, the striking images that appear throughout Acorn allows the play to pick up momentum, making it an enjoyable piece.

The play follows Eurydice as she prepares for her wedding day, excited to spend the rest of her life with her new husband. At the same time, Persephone, a Doctor, goes from patient to patient, trying to improve her bedside manner, which she is told she lacks. It seems as though these two women are worlds apart, but slowly their stories begin to intertwine, and when a snake-bite brings the two together, death becomes their shared destiny.

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The performance is hard to follow at first, even though Deli Segal as Persephone does her best in delivering the beginning monologue. But once the actors get into their stride, Dromgoole’s writing falls into place. Segal portrays the comedic elements of her character with strength, delivering her sarcasm brilliantly. Equally Lucy Pickles performs Eurydice’s humour with style, and it’s a joy to watch the two interact. Tatty Hennessy’s direction is fluid, which makes even the hard to understand scenes visually pleasing to watch. Additionally Tom Pearson’s projections combined with Matthew Strachan’s original score adds a sinister layer to the play, emphasising its ancient Greek influences.

In Greek mythology Persephone is the queen of the underworld, and the fact that she is presented as a doctor in the play is an unusual approach to the character, but a welcome one that challenges the concept of death. Dromgoole successfully manages to adapt the two women into a setting that makes them relatable, creating a very satsifying piece. Although it can be easy to lose track at times, the energy and imagery created by the performers makes Acorn worth your time.

Acorn is at The Courtyard Theatre until 29th October.