REVIEW: Fantastic cast successfully re-imagine a Roald Dahl classic

Fantastic Mr Fox, the stage show
Fantastic Mr Fox, the stage show

There is no realistic hope of bettering the genius work of Roald Dahl, but it is possible to re-imagine with success.

A production of Fantastic Mr Fox at the Lyceum in Sheffield proved as much.

Sam Holcroft adapted the classic tale for the stage and ensured the dark menace of farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean remained.

Every bit as mean and nasty, bumbling and frustrated as the characters in the book, the trio were ultimately outwitted by Mr Fox, played by Greg Barnett.

Barnett begins the show almost obnoxiously, strutting around in a mix of rock-band frontman and Elvis tribute act.

That persona swells and fades with the events of the story, before his humbling realisation that after he rejected their help, he himself needs saving by his friends and family.

This is where the stage show departs a little from the original story, in which Mr Fox comes up with a plan, sticks to it, asks for a little assistance and almost flawlessly pulls it off.

There’s a message in here, that we can’t do it all alone and each of us has a part to play.

It’s a funny show, with an adult joke or two aimed well above the heads of younger members of the audience and plenty of catchy singalong numbers.

Raphael Bushay is endearing as a nervous, nerdy Badger and portrays the hopelessly gluttonous Boggis with aplomb.

Sandy Foster is a rabbit version of Phoebe Buffay, Kelly Jackson is a squeaky and stubborn livewire as Mouse and Richard Atwill is a sneering scumbag descending into madness as Bean and brilliantly sly as the drunken Rat.

But the over-the-top performance as Bunce by Gruffudd Glyn is a real delight, and he amuses equally as the rock-formation obsessed Mole.

Lillie Flynn plays the part of the long-suffering but still madly in love Mrs Fox.

Her and daughter Kit – played by the effervescent Jade Croot – emerging as bonafide heroines, equal partners in the glory, is a nice twist.

The stage design is unexpected but innovative and allows the action to flow almost seamlessly from scene to scene.

For Dahl lovers and kids just discovering the gold in his novels, it’s almost a relief that this show is so good.