Shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, Dexter Flander’s bold debut play, directed by James Hillier, shines a light on queerness within London’s Caribbean Community. It is an exploration of contemporary Black culture, masculinity and male identity. The foxes of the title are gay Black men who live in the shadows – anxious, fearful and diminished.
Daniel is a caring young man from a deeply religious home with a pregnant girlfriend whose life seems mapped out by tradition and obligation. He will settle down as husband and father. Patricia, his fiercely Christian and unbending mother who represents a world straitjacketed by rigid rules and bible truths, is determined to keep to this path.
When he and his best friend, Leon, discover their mutual sexual attraction, this world turns upside down. The play is about how Daniel struggles to reconcile and negotiate the conflicts between desire and duty, tradition and his sexuality, family and future.
Bravery, fear, and survival are at the heart of this drama. How to be gay in a hostile world? How to live by the bible in the face of secular modernity? How to take responsibility for your actions and keep faith with your nature? These are the big questions which Dexter Flanders addresses.
The most powerful scene in the pay is when Daniel comes out to his mother. Her reaction to his “devilshit” is predictable but still truly shocking. Patricia’s wilful refusal to accept the world as it is, and her son as he is, remind us that for many gay people, equality and recognition are still distant dreams. And God loves everyone except a gay man.
‘Foxes’ takes head on some very difficult issues. Apart from the occasional piece of clunky dialogue or rushed narrative, it is a powerful and compelling piece of theatre. It captures the individual struggles and desperate claustrophobia of a world bound by rules which are against the human condition. All the performances are convincing, but Doreene Blackstock, in particular, is a terrifying tour de force as Patricia.
This is a not play about happy endings. It recognises the reality that compromise is necessary, human beings are imperfect, and some truths are best kept partially hidden. But it does offer hope. Go and see it if you can.
‘Foxes’, produced jointly by Defribillator and Theatre503, runs until 23 October in Theatre503, Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BW. For further information go to www.theatre503.com