Fantastic Mr Fox is a thought provoking tale for all the family (4 stars)

Fantastic Mr Fox is a thought provoking tale for all the family

Manuel Harlan

Properly nasty musical adaptation of Dahl's tale will thrill children aged six and over

Musical theatre in its execution but very much Roald Dahl in its feel, this touring adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox has plenty to please a young audience with added bonuses for grown-ups.

Mr Fox lives in an idyllic valley, happily making daring raids on the farms of dastardly farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean to bring back food for his family and friends – who include the most hilarious rabbit seen on stage for many years. But when the farmers blast off his tail and start digging out the fox hole, Mr Fox's all-conquering abilities come into question and he has to start relying on others.

A lot of this takes place underground, where Greg Barnett's jaunty-hipped Mr Fox plans to dig his way into the farmers' barns if he can't go over-ground. A cleverly revolving set, built up into three layers like an enormous tiered cake, allows the story to flow quickly and clearly, with the eight-strong company able to appear at any level.

When this is nasty, it is properly horrid. The farmers are not merely villainous, but smelly drunks, greedy and foul-mouthed. The hint is there, though, that they have just forgotten their inner fox. Indeed, the most successful number is a rock-style affair with Richard Atwill's Bean superciliously stroking Mr Fox's removed tail like Blofeld with a white cat – whilst displaying traits which, in gender terms, would be described as 'fox-curious'.

This is a rare song in the show, however, in that it doesn't go on too long. For all that the concept works overall, particularly the moral twist of trusting those around you, too many numbers neither add enough to the plot nor are musically interesting enough, to merit their length.

Seen at the Edinburgh King's Theatre. Now touring.

Fantastic Mr Fox

A playful retelling of Roald Dahl's sly tale.