There has been an alarming rise in the number of urban foxes around over the past few years. As they have become more prevalent, they have also become more open and less afraid of humans, in fact we have one near where I live that I often see wandering through the commuters on their way to work. Possibly this is a generational thing amongst the genus Vulpes vulpes, but this interaction with the human world is an interesting theme that is explored by playwright Rita Kalnejais in her quirky new play First Love is the Revolution currently playing at the Soho Theatre.
The play starts in a den where three young foxes are eagerly awaiting the return of their mother, Cochineal (Hayley Carmichael) who has been out hunting. Today is a special day for the youngest of the three, Rdeca (Emily Burnett) who is going to have a first lesson in killing, meaning that she will be able to join her sister Gustina (Lucy McCormick) and brother Thoreau (Samson Kayo) outside the den on the hunt. When Cochineal returns, she has a surprise for Rdeca as she has managed to secure a mole for her kit (apparently young foxes aren’t called cubs) to have as her first kill. During the course of the lesson, however, Rdeca discovers something about herself that surprises her and profoundly affects her relationship with the rest of her family.
Elsewhere, in the human world, Basti (James Tarpey) is sitting down to breakfast with his father Simon (Simon Kunz). Basti is both apprehensive and excited this morning as it is the first day of the new school year and he has finally got his fox trap set up properly. Basti wants to catch a fox so that he can skin it and turn it into a stole for his mother – maybe in the hope that this will persuade her to return to the family home. Later that evening, Basti’s trap does work and when he goes to see his catch, it turns out to be Rdeca on her first night out from the den. As Basti prepares to finish Rdeca off, something very strange occurs and nothing will ever be the same again.
I am going to be very honest here, First Love is the Revolution is one of the oddest plays I have ever seen. In fact, for the first ten minutes or so I actually thought I was seeing the wrong production, it was so far from what I was expecting as a story. It is however, very well written, staged and acted so that, after a few minutes, the idea of talking foxes, dogs and chickens actually doesn’t seem too implausible, and even the absolutely huge twist to the story which, at first glance, seems utterly preposterous, becomes easily believable the more you watch. Obviously I can’t go into details on this bit but I would seriously suggest abandoning any prejudices, or preconceived nature v nurture ideas, you may have before taking your seat.
Director Steve Marmion makes great use of his cast – most of whom play more than one role – and the wonderful set designed by Anthony Lamble, complete with working fridge, as he keeps the story moving along at breakneck speed.
Overall then First Love is the Revolution is a one act play that is different from the norm by a country mile, but it is a well presented and enjoyable romp through the surreal landscape of the writer’s mind. The acting is first rate and even if by the end, you are seriously questioning your understanding of normality, you are definitely sure that you have had a really enjoyable night of theatrical fun and games.
Review by Terry Eastham
“This is a love story. About how you’re irresistibly drawn to the one who will undo you. And about violence, and mothers, and daughters, and fathers, and sons, and being true to your nature. It’s about intimacy. How First Love makes you crazy in an already crazy world.” Rita Kalnejais, First Love is the Revolution writer, and Soho Six member.
Headlining the ‘Love Against the Odds’ autumn season, First Love is the Revolution is a viciously funny, beautifully twisted and unmistakably Soho Theatre piece of home-grown work. Following the lives of Basti, Rdeca and their very different families, teenage lust takes on the battle of nature vs nurture in a new play by Rita Kalnejais.
Developed as part of the Soho Six writer’s programme and directed by Artistic Director Steve Marmion, First Love brings together exciting new talent alongside long-standing associates and friends, welcoming them all into the fold in the true Soho style of discovering, nurturing and developing its artists, both on and off stage.
CAST: Emily Burnett, Hayley Carmichael, Samson Kayo, Simon Kunz, Lucy McCormick, James Tarpey
CREATIVE TEAM: Director – Steve Marmion, Set Design and Costume Design – Anthony Lamble, Lighting Design –
Philip Gladwell, Sound Design – Gareth Fry, Production Manager – Bernd Fauler.
FIRST LOVE IS THE REVOLUTION
BY RITA KALNEJAIS
Fri 23 Oct – Sat 21 Nov, 7.15pm. Sat and Thus mat 3pm
21 Dean St, London W1D 3NE