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NODA were invited along to see our production of 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'. Here's what they had to say:

DATE: 26th October 2023

SOCIETY: Maresfield Millennium Players

VENUE: Nutley War Memorial Hall

TYPE OF PRODUCTION: Play with music

DIRECTOR: Tom Messmer

MUSICAL DIRECTOR: James Edwards

CHOREOGRAPHERS: Carine & Amelie Roberts

PRODUCER: Anne Duc

WRITTEN BY: Roald Dahl, adapted for stage by David Wood

Report

Author: John W Barnes

Many will know the story of Fantastic Mr. Fox, or have the seen animated film which is about clever Mr. Fox who lives with his wife and family in a hole under a tree overlooking a valley in which three local farmers live, who are out to kill the foxes and other vermin.

The base of the stage and extended stage for the Band had bales of straw all along the front, which were used as seating by the younger cast members. The opening scene had background blacks with lines of autumnal leaves hung down and centre backstage a tall realistic looking tree trunk. Two trucks with half-moon sides provided the scenery for the Fox’s hole and when turned around the hill under which they lived.

Tom Messmer gave us a cast who were confident and clear in both dialogue and song, without any amplification.  Mr Badger (Rob Haig) as the narrator took us through the story as the show progressed.  The choreography had been well thought out with simple choreography and actions which was confidently done with enthusiasm, and in particular by the very young members.

James Edwards had composed all the music for the lyrics by Roald Dahl and David Wood and had also written the final song “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to ensure we all went out on a high note.  James was also “Mr Rabbit” when he wore his trilby with large sticking up ears. The band of James (Guitar), Chris Hinman (Double Bass) and William Davidson (Fiddle) provided the music in country style of “Ho Down” which fitted the production well.

The three somewhat dim-witted farmers, Boggis (Carine Roberts), Bunce (Jack Jackson-Humphrey) and Bean (Derek Tuffley) all encapsulated their characters well, insomuch that occasionally the audience quietly booed, having identified them as “the baddies”; they each brought light heartedness at times and in particular Bunce being made to appear short in stature by walking on his knees (with costume legs) whenever on stage.  Act 1 ended with the large tree trunk, having been undermined by the farmers, falling onto Boggis and flattening her, which gave the audience great amusement.

Costumes were excellent for all the characters, with ears on metal headbands where required.  The make up for all the animals and cast faces were professionally done by Bethany Wright but did not disguise their faces.

Aidan McConville was a fantastic Mr Fox and well supported by Zoe May as Mrs Fox, who together with Finlay Gillam, Muffin Sharp, Gabi Pollitt and Martha May as the Fox cubs provided a close-knit family who worked as a great team. 

In Act 2, there were some great scenery and prop features like the two diggers operated by Bunce and Boggis; the Chicken House with hens that popped out and eggs on top; the Bunce farmhouse larder with ducks and geese hanging up and vegetables on the shelf; Bean’s Cider cellar with Mabel (Sarah Cannon) nearly finding Mr Fox and Mr Badger (who pretended to be the standard lamp by wearing the lampshade!). The members of the cast holding “planks” to form a wooden wall in foregoing scenes worked well.

The large cast all worked well together, and it would be difficult to name every one of them, except to say the Badgers, Badger Cubs; Moles, little Moles, Weasels, little Weasels, and Small Rabbits all provided excellent support to the principal characters. My congratulations to Tom Messmer, the Director, and to everyone involved front of house, backstage and on stage for making it a highly enjoyable evening.

The programme was beautifully designed with great information, pen portraits and photographs. Had it had contained the NODA logo and wording (available on noda.org.uk) I would have recommended entering it for the annual Programme & Poster competition.

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