Daniel Foxsmith
Snuff Box Theatre in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, and Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
The Finborough Theatre

David Crellin and Dan Parr Credit: Alex Brenner
Dan Parr Credit: Alex Brenner
David Crellin Credit: Alex Brenner

Weald by Daniel Foxsmith opens with Sam (David Crellin) standing alone at the stable he owns, singing an old song about a collier. There is to it an air of desolation. This is rural England where traditional skills are being forgotten or no longer needed and where the young leave for the city.

Jim (Dan Parr) was one of those who left the area after having like his father before him worked at the stable. As the song finishes, he arrives to ask Sam to give him work for three weeks.

Both are unsure about their future. For Jim, the stable is an escape from a decision he needs to make in London. Sam is weighed down by a growing debt from the declining interest in the stables.

It has meant selling the family farmhouse which he tells Jim "housed the hopes and fears of hundreds of people, and I cast it to one side."

Bitterly, he describes its new owner ripping out the ancient timbers and modernising it with no sense of its history.

Sam does not like the way the world is changing. He talks about the honourable way things need to be done and in his fight how he is still part of a long struggle for the land stretching back to the English Civil War of 1648.

This is not the way Jim can see the world. The old ways no longer fit for him, yet his shared personal history with Sam is something incredibly important to him.

The Director Bryony Shanahan’s warm and confident attention to detail along with the very fine acting creates a strong moving performance. The production design by Christopher Hone makes the small Finborough stage seem remarkably spacious.

There is something very solid about the way David Crellin as Sam speaks and moves. It implies strength and purpose. Only sometimes in his expression do we catch sight of the vulnerability he feels.

Dan Parr plays Jim with an optimistic energy that easily engages with others.

Both actors bring a considerable depth and realism to the parts. We very quickly believe in the characters and care about what happens to them.

The final scenes do logically follow what went before but they can feel like a forced rush to press home a bleak if finally hopeful message.

The terrible destruction of traditional male employment has removed for many men a major source of toughness and identity. This play allows us to glimpse the way Sam and Jim struggle to find a different kind of security amidst the wreckage of the old world.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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