Review: Welcome Home, Captain Fox! Is Not So Fantastic

Welcome Home, Captain Fox! at Donmar Warehouse ★★☆☆☆

By James FitzGerald Last edited 18 months ago
Review: Welcome Home, Captain Fox! Is Not So Fantastic Welcome Home, Captain Fox! at Donmar Warehouse 2
Jack Fox (Rory Keenan) and his brother George (Barnaby Kay) in Welcome Home, Captain Fox! Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Upon learning that Welcome Home, Captain Fox! is about a former soldier battling amnesia AND is a reworking of a 1937 play by the French dramatist Jean Anouilh AND that Anouilh was himself best known for once reworking a tragedy by Sophocles, you’d be forgiven for losing track.

You might also be confused about the tone of Anthony Weigh's play: an exposition like that suggests something awfully serious, yet the jaunty Welcome Home, Captain Fox! behaves a little bit like its titular character: it tries to resist the expectations that might come with a specific lineage.

The eponymous character has just been reunited with his family in The Hamptons — a district of New York which we are supposed to have learned from sitcoms to be fairly posh. The year is 1959. Fox has been interred for 15 years in a Soviet prisoner of war camp, and believed dead by his family. When they are all reintroduced, he has no memory of them — of the manipulative matriarch, the jealous brother, or the shrill sister-in-law with whom he once had an affair.

Reluctantly piecing back together the jigsaw puzzle of his old life, he decides to escape any association with this horrid mob. And he certainly wants to distance himself from the Jack Fox of the old days who everyone talks about. A gun-mad philanderer, he sounds as appalling than the rest of them.

Fox comes to realise that his amnesia could give him a chance to reinvent himself, but at what cost for his familial loyalties?

While Fox ends up making a firm decision in the end, the play itself wavers. Jack’s character is allowed to echo the lost, history-less hero of The Importance of Being Earnest. And while there is something of the Wildean comedy-of-manners about it all, few lines have the requisite sizzle. One particular exchange sees sex likened to "taking out the trash", and duly moves along with the grace of a Biffa wheelie-bin.

Whether you anticipated comedy or tragedy at the outset, you’ll certainly have expected a little psychology — although everything’s a little too overpopulated for that.

There is some fleeting interest in what it means to be American, to be a man, to live in the Cold War — but truthfully, once you’ve seen the stagehands spend the interval assembling a vast menagerie of taxidermied animals for the second act, you know what’ll stick in the memory longest.

Welcome Home, Captain Fox! runs until 16 April at the Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LX. Tickets from £7.50. Londonist saw this performance with a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 03 March 2016