Words: Simon Button; pictures: Lidia Crisafulli
Billed as a black love story, Foxes shines a light on masculinity and sexuality in the black community in a way I’ve never seen before.
It is passionate and thought-provoking, hopeful but often upsetting, and it’s written from the heart by first-time playwright Dexter Flanders, who states in the programme that he wanted to delve into the lives of queer black men who - through fear of rejection, ridicule, and shame - wouldn’t dare live their truths in public.
Anyebe Godwin and Michael Fatogun (Photo: Lidia Crisafulli)
One such man is the character Leon (Aneybe Godwin), who is gay but not out. As a straight-acting, rap-loving, Playstation-playing man’s man, when he goes to bars he doesn’t see anyone of colour who isn’t femme and he’s too wary of the stigma that often goes with being gay in black society that he hides his authentic self.
Still, he’s bold and brave enough to plant a kiss on his best friend Daniel (Michael Fatogun), much to the confusion of the latter.
Daniel is, after all, about to become a parent with his girlfriend Meera (Nemide May), a Muslim who has been shunned by her family and has to move in with Daniel, his sister Deena (Tosin Alabi), and their God-fearing mother Patricia (Doreene Blackstock).
Michael Fatogun and Anyebe Godwin (Photo:Lidia Crisafulli)
“I ain’t gay” Daniel tells Leon before realising that actually, he is. “I’ve been living a lie my entire life,” he’s forced to admit but whilst there’s heat and passion between him and his new secret lover, when he gets up the courage to tell his mum that he’s a man who likes men she brings down verbal fire and brimstone on his shaky shoulders.
Being gay, she tells him in a long scene that draws gasps from the audience, is an abomination and queer folk are “devil people”. It’s heartbreaking to hear her say of her son “What a waste of a man” and to perceive his confession, which takes a tremendous amount of courage on his part, as a slap in her face.
Michael Fatogun and Doreene Blackstock (Photo: Lidia Crisafulli)
Blackstock (Eric’s mum from Netflix's Sex Education) is stunning in her righteous anger, belittling her son because of what she’s read in the Bible, and the performances are excellent across the board, with Fatogun and Godwin especially affecting as the furtive lovers who have to move in the shadows like foxes.
At nearly 100 minutes, the show plays without an interval even though the audience (and the hardworking actors for that matter) could do with a breather after that tough-to-take showdown between mother and son.
But it is perfectly paced by director James Hillier across its three acts and Flanders’ script is superb. There’s a happy ending of sorts but it’s not a cop-out. In the programme notes the writer is hopeful that one day men like Daniel and Leon can step into the light of compassion and acceptance. His play is an important first step.
Foxes is at Seven Dials Playhouse until 11 June. For more information visit sevendialsplayhouse.co.uk and for great deals on tickets and shows click here.