This week saw the opening of Snuff Box Theatre’s Weald at the Finborough Theatre in West London. Set in rural England, playwright Daniel Foxsmith transports us to a working livery where old-timer Sam (David Crellin) receives a visit from returning local boy, Jim (Dan Parr), looking for some work on the yard.
Greeted with silence, there’s an element of remoteness and Sam has lead a solitary existence since his wife left with only his folk songs and Motown tunes on the radio for company. Jim escaped the country life years ago and headed for the bright lights of London, now cocksure and twenty five he’s home and needs Sam as much as he needs him.
The silence quickly turns to banter and a warming familiarity between the two, as they share memories and fill in the gaps in recent years. The two men maybe at different stages in their lives but each fill a void in the absence of a father for Jim and a son for Sam and there’s a beautiful protective quality for each other that begins to surface.
It’s a slow and gentle teasing, pulling the threads until it eventually unravels, these are men who are pushed to breaking point and each unable to express their anguish until a familiar face simply asks ‘are you ok?’. They each feel trapped but whereas Jim has the ability to escape his responsibilities in London, Sam is quietly sinking into his own on the farm.
Foxsmith offers a delicate look at male emotion and the perceived stigma of speaking out that is exquisitely is drawn out by director Bryony Shanahan. Sam is a proud man and weighed down by years of heritage that he feels unable to cry out and admit his struggles until it’s too late and results in a tragic end.
As often the case with small pub theatres, it allows for an intense intimacy into the world on stage. Crellin and Parr expertly deliver the characters with fire and soul that the emotions are palpable and deeply affecting. There is a real authenticity in their chemistry, the characters are beautifully developed and you genuinely care what happens to these two men which makes the climatic ending even more devastating.
Amongst the darkness there is brilliant gleams of light with the charming humour in Foxsmith’s script that feeds on the natural relationship between Crellin and Parr, it’s both heartwarming and yet heartbreaking. This is a talented troupe who deliver a powerful piece that tackles an important subject of male depression. It leaves no doubt over the celebrated acclaim Weald has received. Catch it at the Finborough if you can.
(Photo courtesy of Alex Brenner)