Norwich-bound family show Fantastic Mr Fox comes alive with music and song

Raphael Bushay as Badger, Kellie Jackson as Mouse, Jade Croot as Kit, Greg Barnett as Mr Fox, Lille

Raphael Bushay as Badger, Kellie Jackson as Mouse, Jade Croot as Kit, Greg Barnett as Mr Fox, Lille Flynn as Mrs Fox, Gruffudd Glyn as Mole and Sandy Foster as Rabbit. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

Broadchurch and Doctor Who actor Arthur Darvill talks about his parallel career as a composer and lyricist and how he jumped at the chance to work on the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic.

Gruffudd Glyn as farmer Bunce in Fantastic Mr Fox, a Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Curve product

Gruffudd Glyn as farmer Bunce in Fantastic Mr Fox, a Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Curve production in association with Lyric Hammersmith. Picture: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Manuel Harlan

He may be best known as an actor in the likes of Broadchurch where he played kind-hearted priest Rev Paul Coates in Broadchurch or the likeable Rory in Doctor Who but Arthur Darvill has also enjoyed a successful parallel career as a composer.

He has composed music for a number of productions including the Olivier Award-nominated National Theatre production I Want My Hat Back, The Frontline for The Globe, and Jack and the Beanstalk for the Lyric Hammersmith.

His latest project is the score for the stage version of Roald Dahl's classic Fantastic Mr Fox, which comes to Norwich Theatre Royal.


You may also want to watch:


How did you first become involved with this stage production, and what made you want to come on board?

Maria Aberg, the director, called me and said would you like to write some music for Fantastic Mr Fox and I said absolutely! I only had seven months from agreeing to do it until the show opened so it has been a fairly swift process but I am very glad she asked me.

Most Read

Do you think Road Dahl's writing is something that translates easily to the stage?

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

I don't think anything translates easily to stage but I think his stories are so rich and full of brilliant well defined characters that it is a real joy to see these characters, especially those from Fantastic Mr Fox, jump out of the book.

How does it feel to create music for something as well known and universally loved as a Road Dahl story?

It has been a real privilege to write music for this. It is a pinch yourself moment. When re-reading the book I thought I love this book but I don't know if I can do this, which I think is a good reaction to have. Throughout the writing process, it has been about honouring what Dahl wrote and making sure the music tells the story in the best we can tell it.

Were you a fan of the book Fantastic Mr Fox growing up?

I am a massive Roald Dahl fan. He was basically my introduction to reading. I remember reading Fox in my cabin bed that I had growing up in Birmingham. I read it in one go, in one night and just absolutely loved it. It had a drastic impact on the way my world was shaped. Dahl made the most disgusting things in life seem like the most joyous. He also had a great sense of justice, which can only be a good thing.

Broadchurch and Doctor Who actor Arthur Darvill who was also composer and lyricist on Fantastic Mr F

Broadchurch and Doctor Who actor Arthur Darvill who was also composer and lyricist on Fantastic Mr Fox. PIcture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

Tell us about your process for composing the music?

I don't know if I have a process. I had a clear idea in my head what I wanted it to sound like but that kind of changed and thankfully a lot of the pressure was removed when I was working with the team on the lyrics. They knew exactly what needed to happen and have written with such a good sense of humour.

What did you want to capture about the story and its characters in the music?

There are a definite group of characters In Fantastic Mr Fox; humans and animals. I wanted to give them both a very different sound to start with and, as the story develops, these sounds slightly cross over depending on what is happening. The farmers have a dirty earthly English sound and the animals are freer. Mr Fox is arrogant at times and Mouse sings about cheese, which is very sweet.

What do you hope audiences take away from the show?

It's a perfect family show for all ages. I hope audiences take away melodies that they can sing on their way home. This show is so much fun and the right people get their comeuppance. It is not black and white. You will go home discussing the moral content of the story whilst laughing at the jokes.

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

What's your favourite song in the show and why?

I can't choose one song. I'm very pleased with how the farmers' song Foxy Feeling has turned out but they are all good.

Audiences will recognise you from your acting roles in Broadchurch and Doctor Who, but they might not realise that you are also an established composer. Is juggling both careers a challenge?

It is a challenge but a joyous challenge. I couldn't just do one or the other, I have to do both. I have a fun job and I would never complain about it.

What's coming up next for you?

I am currently in Legends of Tomorrow and will hopefully write some more music.

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

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter