HEREFORD-based theatre company 4Play have certainly done the county’s drama lovers proud this year, as they present a powerful, thought-provoking play that attracted huge critical acclaim when first performed in London in 2011.

Foxfinder by Dawn King is an inspired piece for 4Play to have chosen, with a rural backdrop that could as easily be Herefordshire as any other agriculturally dominated region, at an unspecified time, but one that’s frighteningly imaginable.

As rain hammers on the farmhouse roof, Judith and Samuel Covey (Loll McGuire and Richard Monk) anxiously await the arrival of the Foxfinder, sent to discover the reason for their failure to meet quota targets.

And he is adamant that foxes, now demonised as the cause of all society’s ills, from poverty to failing crops, will be that reason. Trained, brainwashed, from the age of five, William Bloor refuses to accept the concept of bad luck or the possibility of a reversal of fortune for the Coveys. But as this beautifully written, carefully conceived allegorical tale unfolds, the reversal, when it comes, proves to be one of faith.

The 19-year-old Bloor, played by Jack Spreckley, sees his certainties challenged, his sacrifices questioned, as he embeds himself into the Coveys’ lives, ostensibly in search of the fox. As Bloor’s beliefs falter, Samuel finds a way to escape the guilt he’s been carrying for months.

The irony is, as the Coveys’ neighbour Sarah is brave enough to point out, few people - and certainly no one of Bloor’s age - has ever seen a fox, and things have not got better. Is the fox no more than a scapegoat and more, a now apocryphal means of oppression and suppression, the Foxfinders trained from childhood to perpetuate the myth?

As Bloor is forced to confront his own nature, his presence in the house proves increasingly divisive and events hurtle out of control.

Billed as “a dystopian parable”, Foxfinder creates a frighteningly credible world, in which elements of the real and present world can be clearly seen - fundamentalism, blind faith and climate change among them. It’s a world that looks backwards over its shoulder and forward to an uncertain future, one where survival can be dependant on betrayal, lies and conformity.

And the four principals did it justice - with Loll McGuire and Jen Booton especially noteworthy as Judith and her neighbour Sarah - presenting Hereford with an exciting and memorable new production.

Foxfinder is at The Courtyard until Saturday, nightly at 7.45pm in the Studio. To book, call The Courtyard on 01432 340555

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Hereford Times: The Courtyard - Herefordshire's Centre for the Arts