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A CurtainUp London Review
Welcome Home, Captain Fox!
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.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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