Tag Archives: Courtyard Theatre

Fox Hunting – 5 Stars


Fox Hunting

Courtyard Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd May 2018


“What makes Alade’s writing so good and the performance so powerful is the absence of prejudice, opinion or criticism”


Five boys gather at the funeral of a friend, the tragic victim of knife crime. As they recollect their experiences of growing up in South London they create an impression of the insecure lives they have grown to accept. In Fox Hunting, writer David Alade uses the verbatim technique, taking the testimonies of young people living through fear and self-preservation, each of whom has been involved in some way in the growing epidemic of knife crime. His exceptionally well-constructed script pieces these stories together on a colourful background of the subjects’ everyday lives.

Their tales illustrate the trajectories of many young people, some managing to step out of their situations but most falling back. There are brilliant performances from all five actors, both as their main characters and the various additional roles they play. They slip from serious, to funny, to sad, sometimes startling the audience with an unnerving threat. Their chemistry goes beyond the rehearsed unity of a cast, creating a sense of that close kinship between friends and the importance it holds.

Within a few seconds of their first appearance on stage, through a glance and a gait the personalities are defined. Terrel, (Chris J Gordon) with initial assurance in his stance, struggles to overcome the disappointment which snubs his aspirations and ultimately changes his life. He portrays a youth blighted by a blank future as he seethes with frustration and impotence. Searching for meaning and purpose, the look in Lawrence’s eyes (Devante Mavour) hints at the unexpected lingering inside which shapes his reactions as he gives up on his faith, dismissive and angry at its injustice. Jake’s bemused expression (Joshua Lewis) tells how the naiveté of his youth is overpowered by irrational social forces. He is crushed by his terror of those who threaten him and of his anxiety when offered help. Arriving with harmless bounce, Darral (Quinton Ariga) is wrapped up in a college life of simple pleasures, but he hides the security and protection he finds from carrying a knife, unaware of the consequences. Joshua (David Alade himself) is the picture of lost innocence, the inevitable prey that he compares to the fox in the road. Inoffensive, blameless and unprepared, he is caught off guard and pays the price.

The unostentatious lighting makes a bold statement in this unpretentious production. Moments of music fit aptly into the narrative while the unadorned set adapts to a variety of scenarios. Simple and powerful, this unvarnished style is true to nature of the Theatre of Fact, whose strength is that it voices the unheard truth.

We are familiar with the reports and statistics of knife crime but rarely have we encountered first-hand accounts. Fox Hunting gives us perspective and nuance. What makes Alade’s writing so good and the performance so powerful is the absence of prejudice, opinion or criticism. With insightful details, it touchingly describes where these boys come from, how they think and spend their time, their families and friends. It’s the underlying harmony to the discordant sense of fear which grips so many in society who suffer for the undeniable lack of support and education. But Fox Hunting also holds a precious stash of talent to be enjoyed now and nurtured for the future.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by David Alade


The Courtyard

Fox Hunting

Courtyard Theatre until 19th May



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The Mysterious Gentleman

The Courtyard Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd November 2017



“struggles to create sufficient drama for a truly magical atmosphere”


Celebrating the 100th anniversary of his death, Jarek Adams’ clever and engaging play, The Mysterious Gentleman, tells the story of controversial Victorian magician, J.N. Maskelyne. In a golden age of belief in the supernatural, his notoriety began when his analytical mind inspired him to reveal the fraudulent spiritualists of his time. He recreated their shows as well as challenging many of them in court, meanwhile astounding audiences with his own spectacular illusions. Yet his personal struggle to determine the existence of the afterlife leads him to believe he is being aided – or haunted – by a man in black.

Kasia Różycki’s production has original ideas – onstage magic, audience participation, the mysterious man in black – but struggles to create sufficient drama for a truly magical atmosphere. The set is simple and period, and the lighting enhances the play’s Victorian theme, but could be better deployed, for example, to heighten tension during the well-incorporated magic tricks. And while the musical motif punctuating each scene gives continuity throughout, the pre-performance music was not of the period. With such a simple stage set, a few music hall ballads would have been a good way to build the Victorian atmosphere.

The play emphasises the two important relationships Maskelyne had, with his ‘partner in mischief’, George Cooke, and with his son, Nevil. I therefore felt I was experiencing his backstage life rather than seeing him as the showman he obviously was. However, Andrew Thorn’s Maskelyne was strong, with a couple of genuinely dramatic moments, conveying determination, innovation and emotion. George Cooke was Maskelyne’s close friend and partner in business. Dave Short gives an empathetic performance as George, ever playing second fiddle to the showman, and maybe never realising his importance to him. In the second half, we meet Nevil Maskelyne. Convincing and confident, Josh Harper brings a welcome change of pace and intensity, as his character’s dreams and ideas are stifled by his admiration for his father.

The man in black character represents Maskelyne’s overhanging doubts about spiritualism. The concept was interesting and gave a physical presence to the play’s themes. There were places, perhaps, where his role needed more attention to detail, for example, at times he acted as stage manager, at others his costume made him appear more as a burglar than a mystery.

Overall it was an entertaining production but lacked the lustre of the magic itself.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by James Hall




is at The Courtyard Theatre until 18th November



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