When you’ve lost your job, you’ve been dumped, you’ve got a terrible bout of insomnia and a fox is haunting you, it’s a little difficult to know fantasy from reality.
Run the Beast Down is the debut full-length play by Royal Court Young Writers’ Programme alumnus Titas Halder. With a propulsive fairytale-like narrative – Grimm Brothers for the VICE age – a live electric score by Chris Bartholomew, a spot of violence with a talking fox and up-to-the-minute jokes about the employment market and being on the sex offenders register, exhilarating doesn’t quite cover it.
Charlie (Ben Aldridge) hasn’t been sleeping since his beloved girlfriend Alex left him and he’s now alone in a wretched estate. His quirky neighbour keeps pestering him about her missing cat; we think the culprit is a mouthy six-year-old, but in fact it has been brutally murdered by the foxes. Alex left him because he prioritised his job over her time after time – apparently one time too many.
Unknowingly, he is showing signs of fox-like behaviour. “When I looked up, I saw him. Burnt orange, bright against the summer woods. He stood grandly on all fours: the King,” When the fox makes clear that Alex will face his wrath, he instantly wants to protect her – running to the flat of her friend that she’s staying with, a friend who also happens to hate him.
Grieving for both his source of income and his relationship, it’s no wonder that Aldridge becomes entranced in the mystery of the fox. His neighbour is his only ally while her son thinks she’s “lost her marbles” and his friend James has shacked up with his beautiful Alex. The mysterious power of this fox over Charlie is the compelling motor of the play. On the surface it appears to be distraction from Alex and his unemployment, but is it really him facing his inner demons? Is the wrath of the fox bad karma for past mistakes?
The ultimate question throughout the play is: what does the fox want? When Aldridge’s character and the elusive fox have their conversations with one another, you can’t help but wonder if there is a big reveal coming. Ending in a murderous showdown following a dead rabbit and a Kendall mint cake, this heart-thumping piece by Marlowe Theatre and Libby Brodie Productions is a riveting neon trance of emotions, confusion and blurred depiction of reality.
Run The Beast Down has been developed under the Marlowe Theatre’s ROAR! Project for New Writing and continues at the Finborough Theatre until February 25. Tickets are £18 (£16 concessions).