Cynthia Troup is a Melbourne writer and artist whose play Undercoat: A Parafoxical Tale is about to be premiered at La Mama Theatre in Carlton. Undercoat is billed as a tale of metamorphosis, in which ‘the remnant wilderness answers back as a provocative chorus of three red foxes’. I asked Cynthia what the script will reveal in its dramatization, with its urban-fringe setting in which climate change is a reality. How does an urban fox sniff out climate change? And, what does this mean to us?
CYNTHIA Undercoat notices that those ‘characteristics’ of the red fox as a species which have long been maligned are also qualities that humans (as a species) might seek to cultivate, within a consciously creative response to the emergent effects of anthropogenic climate change.
When compared to the sensory acuity of the average human being, the red fox’s sensory acuity is extraordinary. Such acuity is one of the characteristics that, whether in literature or conversation, we humans tend to summarily refer to as ‘cleverness’ — or, further, to demonise as ‘cunning’. Yet high-speed responsiveness to olfactory and sonic feedback about immediate surroundings and the environment is undoubtedly a form of intelligence. And this form of intelligence is natural to the red fox as a species, inseparable, in turn, from its talent for adaptation to local conditions. As an omnivore, for instance, a red fox living in Melbourne’s large green spaces and on the urban fringes (thus living in a situation where it’s effectively ‘the top of the local food chain’) can easily adapt its diet to include whatever is available, without fear or favour: ducks from ornamental duckponds, throwaways from fast food outlets, rubbish bins, gutters; small native mammals; insects; blackberries growing unnoticed near railway lines … . Thus resilience is also a characteristic of the red fox as a species, and one manifest wherever they’re thriving. As such, and with particular reference to Australia it might be said that from the time of its importation to Victoria, the red fox has long been adapting to the effects of anthropogenic climate change, moment to moment, willingly following warmer weather, and, more recently, willingly moving in to the comparative ‘comfort’ of the heat islands created by twenty-first-century cities — our ‘human habitats’ which are the sources of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (for heating and cooling; from industrial processes; transportation, etc., etc.)
La Mama is a historical theatre in Carlton, Melbourne. Undercoat: A Parafoxical Tale is playing from 7–18 June 2017
Writer: Cynthia Troup, Director Bagryana Popov, Associate Director: Alice Darling, Performers: Caroline Lee, Emma Annand, Jean Goodwin, Maude Davey, Set and costume design: Emily Collett, Sound design: Elissa Goodrich, Lighting design and stage manager: Giorgia Rann, Project coordinator: Kelly Harris, Animator: Elysia Janssen