Foxes – now at Theatre503
Shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, Dexter Flander’s daring debut play, directed by James Hillier, shines a light on homosexuality within London’s Caribbean community. It is an exploration of contemporary black culture, masculinity and masculine identity. The foxes in the title are gay black men who live in the shadows – anxious, fearful, and diminished.
Daniel is a caring young man from a deeply religious home with a pregnant girlfriend whose life seems marked by tradition and obligation. He will settle down as husband and father. Patricia, her fiercely Christian and inflexible mother who represents a world hampered by rigid rules and biblical truths, is determined to keep this path.
When he and his best friend Leon find out about their mutual sexual attraction, this world turns upside down. The play tells of how Daniel struggles to reconcile and negotiate the conflicts between desire and duty, tradition and his sexuality, family and the future.
Bravery, fear and survival are at the heart of this drama. How to be gay in a hostile world? How to live according to the Bible in the face of secular modernity? How do you take responsibility for your actions and stay true to your nature? These are the big questions that Dexter Flanders answers.
The most powerful scene in payroll is when Daniel is dating his mother. His reaction to his “devil shit” is predictable but still really shocking. Patricia’s voluntary refusal to accept the world as it is and her son as it is, remind us that for many homosexuals, equality and recognition are still distant dreams. And God loves everyone except a homosexual.
‘Foxes’ tackles very difficult issues. Aside from the occasional piece of awkward dialogue or rushed storytelling, it’s a powerful and compelling piece of play. It captures the individual struggles and desperate claustrophobia of a world bound by rules that run counter to the human condition. All the performances are convincing, but Doreene blackstock, in particular, is a terrifying tour de force like Patricia.
This is not a happy endings play. It recognizes the reality that compromise is necessary, human beings are imperfect, and some truths are best kept partially hidden. But it offers hope. Go see him if you can.
‘Foxes’, produced jointly by Defibillator and Theater503, runs through October 23 at Theater503, Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BW. For more information, visit www.theatre503.com