With his flaming red hair and sheepish grin, Mr. Fox from Roald Dahl’s short story, Fantastic Mr. Fox, is one sly character.
He is also a master thief and is not intimidated by three of the meanest, gluttonous farmers you will ever meat… make that meet.
Mr. Fox risks life and limb (including his tail) to feed his family.
And that’s about the gist of the story that is currently on the stage at Armstrong’s Asparagus Community Theatre.
Directed by Mandy Penner, the play stars a cast of some of the cutest critters, and some of the ugliest farmers, you’ll see this side of the fox hole.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fantasy adventure for children, but grown ups will like it too. It has that dark humour and those dastardly characters seen in other Dahl stories such as James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It also has a great character in Mr. Fox, played in Asparagus’ production by Phelan Gotto, who couldn’t be better cast. And yes that flaming, red hair of his is real.
As the confident and cocky fox, Gotto has no problem digging into his character as well as to the surface from his fox hole to steal chickens, ducks, turkeys, and cider from his enemies.
Those aforementioned bumbling farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean – one fat, one short, one lean – are played here in all their campy glory by masked avengers Andy Moorhouse, Brodie Muskett and Nathan Domarchuk-White.
I’m sure there are better ways to deal with vermin than what these farmers come up with, digging with their mini excavators down the fox hole, guns a blazing.
And there’s lots of digging as Mr. Fox and his better half Mrs. Fox (the lovely Madison Reynolds, who has matching red hair) and their quartet of cunning fox kids (Sarah Holman, Carson Armitage, Joseph Taylor, and Tim Harder), attempt to get away from the farmers.
All this sets up for the second act, when Mr. Fox and family join Badger (Cody Clyburn) in outfoxing the farmers and the Rat (Shaleen Toney), who guards Bean’s cellar, to score the motherlode.
The resulting feast, and cider, is shared among the foxes’ fellow diggers – moles, badgers, rabbits and weasels – all played here by cute kids, and a few adults, in animal costumes, so how can you go wrong?
The other thing you can’t help but notice, besides that flaming, red hair, is the set, designed by Maryke Simmonds and her crew.
The props and backdrops are wonderfully done, as is the beautifully lit fox that stares down at you from above the stage.
The painting is a creation by renowned set/prop/costume designer Catherine Hahn, who delivered the piece while working over at Caravan Farm Theatre for its upcoming sleigh-ride production. The fox even has an extra swath of red hair to match Gotto’s.
Make like a fox, and dig your way to Armstrong for this fun, family play.
Fantastic Mr. Fox continues at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre this week, Thursday through to Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee Saturday at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at the Guy Next Door in Armstrong. Call 250-546-0950 to reserve.
– Kristin Froneman is the arts-entertainment editor at the Vernon Morning Star.