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A CurtainUp London London Review
Welcome Home, Captain Fox!

"There's only so much Mah Jong one can play!" — Marcee
Welcome Home, Captain Fox!
Fenella Woolgar as Valerie and Rory Keenan as Jack (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
There is the 16th century story of Martin Guerre, a man who returns from the wars and no-one is sure who he really is. But Jean Annouilh's Le Voyageur Sans Bagage" was about a French soldier returning from the First World War and based on an amnesiac man who was claimed by more than twelve families. They were desperate not to have lost their sons. Anthony Weigh's version of the Anouilh play is moved to America in 1959 where a captured and imprisoned G I (Rory Keenan) has just returned to the United States and is not sure who he is.

In the opening scene a man in a white coat is questioning a soldier in those white paper overalls they use on prisoners and hospital patients. We are not sure if he is being grilled or coached as they ask about his identity.

Katherine Kingsley and Danny Webb play the pretentiously named Mr and Mrs De Wit Dupont Dufort, a social climbing pair who run a dogs rehoming charity and decide to apply their home finding skills to this unclaimed soldier. Mrs Dupont Dufort or Marcee (yes, she does spell it with a double ee) is a fashion plate with a ghastly accent and her husband wears one of those checked cotton jackets and statement rimmed spectacles. They are here to meet the affluent Fox family in the Hamptons, Long Island. Mrs Fox (Sian Thomas) drools superiority, her son George (Barnaby Kaye) is hen pecked by both his mother and his wife Valerie (the magnificent Fenella Woolgar). The Dupont Duforts are proposing to the Fox family that Gene, as he likes to be called, is their son Jack, lost in the war.

As Jack moves in, his past starts to emerge and it is less than savoury with gambling, drinking, hunting and sexual dalliances which left him in debt. The maid, Juliette (Michelle Asante) thinks she has rumbled him and that the amnesia is a cover so as not to have face his debts. However it seems that Jack has aspirations to be a nicer person than he was.

In the second act Jack's room has been decorated with a forest of stuffed animals, many of them foxes. Twenty two other hopeful families have assembled in the pool house to claim who might be their lost relative. The parallel with Martin Guerre is that the returned soldier seems a much nicer person that the one before the war but is that because he is an imposter or because he has changed?

Anthony Weigh's script is a mischievous comedy which zings with jokes and we know Blanche McIntyre directs comedies with verve and gets good performances from her cast. There are social pretensions to laugh at and the Fox family may be rich but they are far from ideal, with the very funny, sexually predatory, alcoholic and sarcastic Valerie. She is always calling for the drinks tray. Sadly for the conundrum, this couldn't happen today as we'd just collect the soldier's DNA to verify his identity.

What we were watching may just have been inspired by Annouilh, but Welcome Home, Captain Fox is a lot more entertaining than the last Annouilh play I saw, with robust comedy and a sending up of social snobbery.
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Welcome Home, Captain Fox!
Written by Anthony Weigh, a new version of Jean Annouilh's Voyageur Sans Bagage
Directed by Blanche McIntyre
Starring Rory Keenan, Katherine Kingsley, Danny Webb, Trevor Laird, Sian Thomas, Barnaby Kay, Michelle Asante, Fenella Woolgar
With: Daniel York, Kit Connor/ Ilan Galkoff/ Rory Stroud
Designed by Mark Thompson
Lighting: Hugh Vanstone
Sound: Gregory Clarke
Running time: Two hours 25 minutes with an interval
Box Office 0844 871 7624
Booking to 16th April 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 7th March 2016 performance at the Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LX (Tube: Covent Garden)
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