Actors from the famed Fox dynasty attended the world premiere of a new play ‘The Man Who Captured Sunlight’ about their ancestor, the legendary Samson Fox – engineer, philanthropist and the former Mayor of Harrogate.
Freddie Fox, who has featured in major TV series such as The Crown, Slow Horses and White House Farm, travelled to Harrogate with his mother, the actor Joanna David, who has featured in countless TV shows from Downton Abbey to the current hit, House of the Dragon. Joanna’s husband, Edward Fox, was unable to attend due to his stage work commitments.
Photo caption: Clair and Ann Challenor-Chadwick Cause UK Producers of “The Man Who Captured Sunlight” with Freddie Fox, Joanna David
The pair sat in the Samson Fox box at the Royal Hall to watch the matinee performance of The Man Who Captured Sunlight. Freddie took part in a Q&A with the show’s writer, Gavin Collinson and director, Sian Murray, after the performance.
Clair Challenor Chadwick, Director of the ethical agency Cause UK which produced the play, said: “Freddie and Joanna were an absolute delight and thrilled by the play. Joanna said it was a stunning performance, a terrific play and marvellous ensemble of actors. She said she was sad that her husband Edward didn’t see it, but hoped it would have another life.”
Freddie Fox has been a big supporter of the project for Cause UK, helping publicise the play and advise on the script.
Clair said: “Freddie said it made him feel very emotional to watch it in the theatre his great, great grandfather helped build. He was full of praise for the cast, and said what an incredible presence Joe Standerline had as Samson Fox.”
Widely known for ‘bottling the sun’ as Harrogate’s streets became the first thoroughfares in the world to be lit with Fox Water-Gas, Samson Fox helped spearhead the Industrial Revolution and donated the funds to build the Royal College of Music, as well as being instrumental in building Harrogate’s Royal Hall.
Joanna David with playwright Gavin Collinson
The play was produced and sponsored by Cause UK, who are known for their work supporting ethical business, charities, social enterprise and the arts, as well as running their own events and festivals. Ran by sisters, Clair and Ann, Cause UK won the Harrogate Excellence in Business Awards this year as Best Independent Business, as well as Best PR Agency of the Year at the Prolific North awards in 2021.
Audience member Rachel said: “It was brilliant, my friend whose only visits to the theatre have been to the panto said it was so good and very enjoyable, but it had to be – as it was about Yorkshire folk!”
Freddie Fox also bought an exclusive print edition of the play’s promotional artwork, which was created by Harrogate artist, Christian Bailey, who had a display of prints available for sale on the day. Cause UK has commissioned a number of pieces from the award-winning artist; Bailey recently won the Purchase Prize at the New Light Exhibition, and currently has his work exhibited in the Mercer Gallery.
Harrogate Borough Mayor, Councillor Victoria Oldham, also attended the premiere.
Clair said “We are proud to be the brainchild of this original play, and commissioning northern talent from North of Watford acting agency, as well as the talented playwright, Gavin Collinson. It’s been thrilling to capture Samson Fox’s legacy for Harrogate, producing a first-class production and seeing the fantastic reception it received. Navigating an arts project such as this was difficult in today’s climate, but as Samson Fox and his family motto states: To the brave, nothing is difficult. We look forward to our next challenge!”
She added: “We are hoping the play leaves a lasting legacy, and that Samson Fox is continued to be celebrated in Harrogate particularly in the lead up to the 120th anniversary of The Royal Hall next year.”
100% of proceeds of the theatre programme were donated to The Royal Hall Restoration Trust.
Photo credit Gerard Binks.