Rosie LockhartIt seems when times are tough we always need to find a scapegoat, and in British playwright Dawn King’s Foxfinder, opening Red Stitch’s second season for 2013, the humble fox finds itself shouldering the heavy burden of blame for a dystopian society in terminal decline.

In the bleak English countryside crops are failing, food is scarce and the weather is dangerous. Although believed largely extinct, foxes have become objects of intense fear and paranoia. It’s believed their presence represents corruption, disease and destruction.

“It’s really about how a group, or society, can so easily be led once an idea is planted in their heads. The foxes are blamed for all of society’s failings, and they’re very soon demonised – that really isn’t questioned by anybody,” actor Rosie Lockhart told the Star Observer during a break in rehearsals.

Lockhart plays Sarah, a neighbour to central characters Judith and Samuel Covey and ultimately Foxfinder’s sole voice of reason.

“Sarah pops in and out of the play in a way that’s almost the audience’s eye. She’s on the search for truth. She wants to live in a peaceful, healthy, fruitful world, and it doesn’t make sense to her why everyone is struggling – she’s trying to figure it out,” she said.

In this eerie vision of rural England, figuring out the truth can have dire consequences.

“This play is dealing with the consequences of being a dissident. There’s a lot of fear surrounding that role, because everyone’s absolutely terrified of the ramifications. It’s really radical to speak up, because the ramifications are horrific – you’ll be sent to a concentration camp if you do.”

As Judith and Samuel’s crops fail, a local foxfinder is dispatched to locate and destroy the enemy. As his investigations proceed, the real forces at play are slowly revealed.

Lockhart said she hoped Foxfinder would instigate much discussion from audiences as they ask themselves: what would I do? Could I stand up for what’s right, or would I keep my head down in the hopes of staying alive?

“I think a lot of people will be able to see themselves in someone in this play, because it’s really about that basic human instinct of survival – what do we do to survive? How far would we go? It’s funny, because I think I’d react exactly as Sarah does – trying to be the voice of reason.”

And if all this sounds rather bleak, Lockhart said she and the cast hadn’t had to work to hard to tease occasional moments of lightness out of the text.

“The beauty of this play is it rolls along really quickly. The foxfinder himself is quite a strange character, he’s often quite absurdly funny. It is a funny play at times, despite it being a drama set in a very
bleak world.”

info: Foxfinder, Red Stitch Theatre, July 19-August 17.

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