Weald at Finborough Theatre
On a small stage projected into the intimate audience at the Finborough Theatre, Weald confronts the complex relationship between student and master.
The play portrays the conflicting influences of familial bonds against generational age gaps that so often see the pupil surpass his teacher. As we have seen in Hollywood blockbusters like About a Boy, the beautiful and tear-jerking I Capture the Castle and Whiplash, the theme is recurrent. In this case we see Jim (Dan Parr) return home to rural England to work on family friend Sam’s farm (David Crellin). Here Jim uses Sam’s experience to exorcise his demons and redirect his path whilst Sam struggles to exist in a world where legal formalities outweigh ancestral traditions.
It is this symmetricality that elevates Weald: both Parr and Crellin adapt fluidly to their roles. Their partnership surpasses the boundaries of the stage, representing a relationship that has been building for many a year, not just a few months of rehearsal.
Playwright Daniel Foxsmith has confidently encapsulated the concept within his award-nominated new play. Foxsmith’s dedication to the rural North is felt not only in the skilled accents both actors maintained, but in the opening and closing song delivered by both characters. This technique provides an auditory symbol of the shifting roles in the piece; the younger’s palpable anger and desire for guidance is transferred to his elder in a touching crescendo to a heartfelt act.
The script is admirable in respecting both the wit and cynicism for which the North is renowned. However, at times the piece loses its flow. The beginning of the play occasionally drags with lengthy dialogue, and while the enthralling finale detonates in a cacophony of war imagery, it fails to feel completely natural within the piece. With a longer, more dedicated projection, perhaps both of the characters could have been developed without such a sudden and unexpected plot turn.
Nonetheless, as new writing that boldly confronts the question of what is it is to be a man, Weald provides a tense and absorbing piece of theatre that should not be missed.
Photo: Alex Brenner
Weald is on at the Finborough Theatre from 2nd until 27th February 2016, for further information or to book visit here.