FOX LIVE, the recent fruit of Rowland Bennett, Valerie Ní Loinsigh and Tom McGrath’s collective labour, is a comedy-based musical presented by Chatty Rabbit Theatre in DU Players. Based around a fictitious broadcasting station and all the calamity and hysterics associated with it behind closed doors, this bold new production is riddled with sass and daring aplomb.
We follow the journey of Valerie Fox, show host extraordinaire (Sheila Naughton), and her struggle with ageing and career pressure within the commercialised constraints of FOX LIVE. We are introduced to her superior in the form of Sylva Brady (Valerie Ní Loinsigh), who ushers proceedings along and acts as an overseer of sorts for the majority of the performance. She is assisted by the vivacious Thandie (Martha Grant), who is her second in command, and slightly ditsy in every sense of the world. Valerie’s daughter Maisie’s (Sophie Hannah Byrne) relationship with the newly-employed love interest, Bobby (Andy Duane), proves to be troublesome, but makes for a highly entertaining performance due to Byrne’s sensibility and Duane’s blunt but humorous opposition. The family dispute between mother and daughter was well played by Naughton and Byrne and acts as an interesting incentive, further nudging toward frustration and oppression, predominant co-themes present throughout the production.
With an impressive, original score, the show was briskly-paced and just under one hour long. Some additional time would have perhaps allowed for a more lucid overall performance with regards the storyline development and general plausibility. The show’s casting was particularly impressive, with five very capable actors. Both solo and ensemble work were impressively carried out and generally very entertaining as a whole. Musical numbers were sung with panache, particularly “Secrets,” “A Faded, Delusional Star,” and “Lunchtime Lover.” Naughton’s portrayal of Valerie Fox brought a more down-to-earth quality to proceedings which was very much welcome. All actors strangely delivered a heavily Americanised version of their characters, and this raised some interesting questions with regards directorial choices. Certainly, there was nothing subtle about FOX LIVE, but perhaps the tendency to over-act and heavily accentuate dialogue with face-front delivery and over-the-top relentlessness became exhausting and eventually superfluous to a point. Perhaps it could have been more endearing to see this concept applied to a more local setting, rather than adding the burden of excess and alien pretence to an unfamiliar place. Having said this, the overall run of things was very humorous and this was most likely the intent- to create hilarity out of a comical, conventional situation.
The production itself was highly ambitious and the most impressive thing of all was the connotations this production produced (whether by accident or intent). Oppression, struggle with age, career, family issues, and drugs were among some of the issues addressed and brought up in an interesting, alternatively fresh light.
FOX LIVE makes for a highly entertaining and pleasurable evening’s entertainment. With superbly rich performances and a brash new musical score, it’s highly recommended you see it.
From now until Friday in Players Theatre, and then goes to Smock Alley Theatre