For Those That Cry When They Hear The Foxes Scream, Tristan Bates Theatre - Review

"What would you choose? Toes for fingers or fingers for toes?" So begins Charlotte Hamblin's provacative drama For Those Who Cry When They Hear The Foxes Scream. Women's stories involving psychiactric care have proven to be fertile ground for plays, especially given the emperical evidence that even in the present day, there is a greater bias for women versus men to need care. Sarah Kane's Cleansed and 4.48 Psychosis (and Terry Johnson's Hysteria) are arguably some of the first examples of this sub-genre. Hamblin's play, while set in a psychiatric facility is actually the relationship of a gay female couple and how in this atmosphere of honesty and candour they can be frank about their own difficulties.

Director Charlie Parham has wisely decided to allow the edge of the stage to be included for seating as well, creating a greater atmosphere of intimacy between audience and performers. Venues such as the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre utilise this seating format for relevant shows, and even though the Tristan Bates Theatre has a wide repertoire of shows, it's great that they're showing flexibility with the staging of plays as well.

Playing 'A', the confined young woman at the centre of Foxes is Charlotte Hamblin, who also wrote the play. Zora Bishop plays her partner 'B' and within the play's 75 minutes, everything is up for frank discussion: their respective familial female relationships; how and why 'A' is receiving care, and the couple's own relationship.

As the mercurial 'A', Hamblin takes no prisoners, her dialogue littered with caustic wit. Challenging gender labelling when engaging in discussion, 'A' conversely avoids talking about a range of other subjects, instead choosing to spend much of her conversations with word games and asking surreal questions.

Within the play, there is the notion of memories and stories as the bedrock the formation of self-identity, with Miriam Margolyes as the audio book narrator heard throughout. Einstein was once attributed as saying that "God doesn't play with dice", and in this play nothing is coincidental, especially with the children's books chosen for narration. They obliquely or more overtly allude to the play's themes, and include The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The audiobook cassette tapes that adorn the shelf behind 'A' suggest a personality that only likes factual, unemotional things – and distrusts melodies/music that she can emotionally respond to. Then there is importance of telling anecdotes, a way of smoothing over the awkward silences during social intercourse, when conversation has naturally dried up. 'A' admits that as a child she had reading difficulties which led her to use audiobooks in the first place, but like other behaviour, what started out as a childhood affliction has been perpetuated, despite the need to move forward.

There is a moment in the play when 'A' admits behaving towards someone in a particular way and just the very thought of it shocks 'B'. "Surely A's just joking about this. Isn't she? And if not, do I really know her?"

The names of 'A' and 'B' maybe ciphers, but there's nothing  two-dimensional about the respective characters or their relationship, believable in every way. By seeing the pair communicate on a 'daily basis', the audience gets to how much in need of psychiatric care 'A' really needs and how much is her confinement a 'crutch' for not facing the emotionally-messy details of reality.

© Michael Davis 2016

For Those Who Cry When They Hear The Foxes Scream runs at Tristan Bates Theatre until 2nd July 2016.

Photo credit: Guy Bell – with actors Charlotte Hamblin and Zora Bishop


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