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Review: Welcome Home Captain Fox! at the Donmar Warehouse

19990_show_landscape_large_01-1During the interval of Welcome Home, Captain Fox! PolyG said to me 'I nearly didn't recognise Danny Webb' to which I replied 'Danny Webb is in this?' such is his transformation. Once you know it's him it becomes obvious but it's an interesting parallel to the plot of this updated adaptation Jean Anouilh's play La Voyageur San Bagage by Anthony Weigh.

Jean Anouilh's Le Voyageur Sans Bagage
Jean Anouilh's Le Voyageur Sans Bagage

The Captain Fox of the title refers to Rory Keenan's character Gene, a soldier who, has been languishing in an East Berlin prison for 15 years, since World War II, without any memory of who he is. Gene is the name he is given as one of his captures is a Eugene O'Neill fan.

Danny Webb's character DeWitt is a low grade businessman whose socially ambitious wife (Katherine Kingsley) discovers Gene in a military sanitarium and decides that if she can help reunite him with his long lost - and hopefully rich family - it will improve her social status. Top of the list of potential families are the wealthy Fox's who live in a large house by the sea on Long Island and that is where the couple find themselves with Gene.

Welcome Home, Captain Fox! is one of those plays that is actually a lot more interesting than the synopsis would initially suggest. It is not just a case of whether Gene is the missing, presumed dead son of the Fox's, it is also about whether they want him to be their son Jack. And, as Gene finds out more about Jack, whether he actually wants to be that person. It is a play about identity, self perception and whether you can erase the past and start over. That makes it sounds quite serious but it's actually quite funny and a production that will no doubt get funnier as the actors get slicker (I saw an early preview).

It takes a little while to get into its stride with an overly long build up to Gene meeting the Fox's. Katherine Kingsley's character can get a little bit annoying in the opening scenes and the frustration felt towards her by the other characters is one that is easily mirrored. She is amusing in small doses and works better in the second half as a result. Danny Webb is having a blast, particularly when his character reveals his true feelings.

The stage is initially set up as the Fox's drawing room then later Jack's attic bedroom, complete with an amazing collection of taxidermy. The blocking isn't the best I've seen at the Donmar and although I was sat on an aisle, on Row B in the stalls my sight line was blocked by a piece of furniture which meant I missed some key scenes. So that's a big thumbs down for that.

Otherwise its an entertaining piece that blossoms into something interesting and amusing. I'm giving it four stars and you can catch it at the Donmar until April 16. It is two hours and 25 minutes with an interval.

Related post:

Rehearsal photos: Welcome Home, Captain Fox!