Bringing Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox to the stage in Norwich

Greg Barnett as Fantastic Mr Fox in stage adptation that is at Norwich Theatre Royal from June 21-24

Greg Barnett as Fantastic Mr Fox in stage adptation that is at Norwich Theatre Royal from June 21-24. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

A cunning fox seeking to out-do three greedy farmers, Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox is coming to Norwich. Director Maria Aberg reveals all about bringing the family favourite to the stage.

Gruffudd Glynn as Farmer Bunce, Richard Atwill as Farmer Bean and Raphael Bushay as Farmer Boggis in

Gruffudd Glynn as Farmer Bunce, Richard Atwill as Farmer Bean and Raphael Bushay as Farmer Boggis in Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

No-one outfoxes a fox despite the efforts of three greedy, smelly and horrid farmers. That is the story behind a new musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic novel Fantastic Mr Fox, which comes to Norwich Theatre Royal next week.

Boggis, Bunce and Bean hate the cunning Mr Fox. He is smart, clever and rather fantastic, but he doesn't realise how determined these three farmers are to get revenge.

Can he hatch a plan to save his family and friends? Can they outrun the diggers and outsmart the farmers? And can Rabbit shut up long enough not to give the game away?

A juicy tale of greed, pride and the power of friendship, and a perennial family reading favourite, this stage production, adapted as part of the Roald Dahl centenary celebrations, features live music and songs as well as some 'gloriumptious' designs.


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Taking on the lead role of Mr Fox is Greg Barnett who has appeared on TV in the BBC's cult hit Fleabag and daytime favourite Doctors, as well as enjoying a wide-ranging theatre career in the likes of Swallows and Amazons in the West End and on tour, Zorro at The Garrick in London's theatre-land, and the UK tour of Sweeney Todd.

The play has been adapted for the stage by Sam Holcroft whose most recent play Rules For Living premiered at the National Theatre last year. Her other work includes Dancing Bears for the Latitude Festival.

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The composer and one of the lyricists for the show, Arthur Darvill, is better known for a string of high-profile TV acting roles including the big-hearted Rev Paul Coates in Broadchurch and the lovable Rory in Doctor Who.

The production has been directed by Maria Aberg, who has previously worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, and here tells us more…

Greg Barnett as Mr Fox in Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox, a Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Curve p

Greg Barnett as Mr Fox in Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox, a Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Curve production in association with Lyric Hammersmith. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Manuel Harlan

Fantastic Mr Fox is an incredibly well-loved story, can you tell us a bit about Sam Holcroft's adaptation and how your fox will look?

Sam Holcroft's adaptation is incredibly funny and fast. It is a really witty take on the original with a few new twists and turns. So, while the familiar story from the book remains intact, there are definitely a few surprises in terms of what happens to the Fox family and who joins them on their journey. Sam has done a brilliant job in bringing the world of the book to life in a way that feels very vivid and contemporary, with lots of warmth and humour. She's made sure you'll definitely recognise all your favourite characters, but she's also re-invented them for a new audience, which feels very fresh and exciting.

What were the challenges on putting your stamp on this classic?

I've really tried to stay true to Sam's new version of the story, rather than harking back the original. While she's written something very fresh, it also absolutely retains the spirit of Dahl. So for me the job was really to try and make that come alive on stage. In terms of challenges, let's just say the show is action packed! I think Sam wrote it very much without thinking about how any of it would be staged - and rightly so. And this means that as a director you are faced with numerous thrilling staging challenges. There's not only the famous digging sequence, but many, many other things that we have tried to tackle in the playful spirit of the original.

Arthur Darvill has composed the songs for the show, can you tell us a bit about how the music is being used?

We're using songs in a variety of different ways, but they're always integral to the story-telling. There are some big action sequences that are told through music, and then there are songs that are used to take us on more interior journeys of characters. The music is constant throughout and the band is present on stage for the whole of the show, so it's a big component.

Fantastic Mr Fox comes to Norwich Theatre Royal from June 21-24. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Fantastic Mr Fox comes to Norwich Theatre Royal from June 21-24. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Manuel Harlan

We've elebrated the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl's birth. His work continues to entertain children and adults around the world – what do you think makes his stories so popular?

Dahl's stories are funny and vivid. They're a bit rude, they're grotesque, and they sort of sit outside reality in a way that's really appealing to a child's imagination.There's an irreverence and a lack of respect towards figures of authority, which for a child, I think is incredibly appealing. His worlds are fantastically rich and funny and I think there's a political element to them that means that they resonate above and beyond the stories themselves.

Why is it important to tour a show like this?

I'm just delighted that's lots of people are going to get the chance to see it, because I think it's a really wonderful bit of writing. It's a fantastic company, the design is stunning and there's a message to the story that is very important at this particular point in time. It touches on community, togetherness, solidarity and what makes a good leader.

Why should people come and see the show and what do you hope the audiences will take away?

Come and see it just because it will be so much fun! It may be a cliché but there really is something in it for everyone. The music is fantastic and the actors are brilliant. It is surprising and exciting and I hope that the audience will come away feeling like celebrating their family and their friends and feeling like they are a little bit more fantastic than they did when they arrived.

• Fantastic Mr Fox, Norwich Theatre Royal, June 21-24, various times, £18-£7, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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