The playwright of For Those Who Cry When They Hear The Foxes Scream, Charlotte Hamblin, could have come up with more imaginative names than A and B for her characters in this creative and explorative two-hander, though at least it’s never ambiguous who is being referred to whenever either character talks either about or to ‘you’.
The opening scene is strikingly uncomfortable, with some dark humour mixed in with some toilet humour, which I sincerely hoped, with fingers crossed, that the repeated references to ‘sh*t’ wouldn’t turn out to be a metaphor for the play. In the end, it was a fear that was left unrealised, but even so, the first fifteen (or was it twenty?) minutes were a test of endurance. What is it with contemporary theatre and swearing? It’s true that Shakespeare plays are laced with innuendo and bawdy puns, but it is imaginative and witty (even if obsolete hundreds of years later); here, blunt insults are repeated to the point that it left me bored.
I was also, I am sorry to report, distracted by a large number of objects and artefacts on stage, most of which were never touched, directly referenced or alluded to. I spent far too much time than I ought to have done attempting to connect the objects in some way to the narrative, with no success, even now, in hindsight.
The audience’s patience, however, is rewarded in subsequent scenes, and the quote attributed to Marilyn Monroe came to mind. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” It summarises A (also Charlotte Hamblin) and her outlook, though the character may well lash out and bark at me to “[insert expletive] off” if I ever asserted this to her face. But, the worst, as it were, was quickly over, and the sheer irreverence of this play began to get rather refreshing.
The absurdity of some of the conversations between A and B (the latter played by a very likeable Zara Bishop) became increasingly laughable, and never guiltily so, either despite or because of – I still haven’t decided which – some very serious issues that come to the fore as the narrative progresses. Little is soft-hearted and compassionate, and this lack of pathos is a bit of a gamble, as it could have left the audience so detached that we could have failed to engage altogether. There are, however, a range of emotions conveyed in what eventually becomes quite a visceral play. Or, to put it another way, the gamble pays off.
There are motion picture references aplenty, not all of whom I could relate to: my near-total ignorance of all things ‘Harry Potter’ left me po-faced at one point while much of the rest of the audience laughed heartily. An unexpected twist in the plot came towards the very end, adding another coating to an already multi-layered storyline, and as B finally confronts A over the latter’s conduct and behaviour, the play reminds us that true friends will, sooner or later, tell it like it is, even if ‘it’ may be painful to hear.
Although it felt, as it presented in this play, like an appendix to an academic textbook (at least to me), there were intriguing observations into what is real and what is imagined. The ending to the play itself is left ambiguous: do A and B stay together or go separate ways? There’s much to think about love and loyalty in this varied and expressive production. One to consider if you like theatre that defies mainstream conventions.
Review by Chris Omaweng
FOR THOSE WHO CRY WHEN THEY HEAR THE FOXES SCREAM
7 June – 2 July. Tue-Sat, 7.30pm & Sat, 3pm.
A new play by Charlotte Hamblin. ‘Yes I will always win. I really can’t help that from now on it will always, always be about me.’ A medical isolation unit. A girl is trapped in a bubble. No one can touch her. Her girlfriend comes to visit her every day; they listen to audiobooks, argue, dream and despair… anything to pass the time, to fill the clinical silence. But they can’t pretend for much longer. Unable to exist in the real world, they must struggle together to comprehend and survive the truth of their situation. This debut play tells a witty, moving and honest story about trauma, hope and the relationship between two young women today. ‘What, so the real tragedy here is that we won’t take a dump in the same place again?’