By Christopher Walker
Theatre503 is a tiny fringe theatre in Battersea with just 63 seats. It has garnered a well-earned reputation as a launch pad for new writers and has been going for nearly forty years now. The theatre programmes around a hundred pieces a year. Their latest offering, Foxes, demonstrates why it is so important for London to have such top class “sandboxes.”
Foxes is witty, gripping and well written. It’s incredible to think that this thought-provoking piece is the author’s debut. Dexter Flanders graduated from RADA only four years ago, and took up writing. Within a year, he’d turned out this play, which was rightly shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, the leading award for black British playwrights.
Directed by James Hillier, Foxes “explores masculinity and homosexuality within London’s Caribbean Community and black street culture.”
The central character, Daniel is caught up in a relationship with Meera whom he has accidentally impregnated.
Meera is from a Moslem background and is swiftly rejected by her family. Daniel has his own family problems when he awakens to his sexuality, almost disbelievingly.
Many will find this play controversial.
Dexter Flanders comments “I hope the play inspires and provokes discussions around how we currently define a specific strand of masculinity and also challenges the often inflexible perception that can be prevalent within the black community.” It certainly achieves a lot in a series of well-crafted domestic scenes.
All of the performances are good, thanks to an experienced cast and firm direction.
Daniel, played convincingly by Michael Fatogun, is a likeable character who seems to stumble on the fact he is gay, because it is so at odds with everything he has been taught and read about being gay.
He, and his, somewhat annoying, best friend Leon (Anyebe Godwin) see themselves as the kind of men who are not gay, but just happen to like having sex with men. A theme that may be sadly familiar to many in the gay community.
There are three female characters who dance around this confused pair. Daniel’s girlfriend Meera is sympathetically played by July Namir, who is perfect for the role.
Her despair at losing her family over a man who cannot be with her, and her anger at being left (literally) holding the baby, are well documented.
Daniel’s mother, Patricia, played by the very accomplished Doreen Blackstock, is equally shocked by her son’s coming out, and quotes scripture at him. The scenes between her and Daniel are sharply written and beautifully played. They are hard to watch, as they should be.
Ultimately, Patricia cannot be persuaded by her daughter Deena (Tosin Alabi) to see the hypocrisy of her stance, and Daniel is forced to make a difficult choice.
The play is a sad reminder of the prejudice that still exists in our society, and that not everyone has the strength in them to be a hero.
After it’s short run at 503 it will apparently be in the Young, Gifted and Black festival in Peckham in November.
For details go to https://theatre503.com/whats-on/
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