The Finborough Theatre (London)
Written by Daniel Foxsmith
Directed by Bryony Shanahan
Weald takes us into the world of Sam’s livery yard in rural England, where Sam keeps himself busy and isolated from the rest of the community. One day Jim comes to break those barriers, looking for a few weeks work. As the play unravels it becomes clear the two men are concealing their reasons for being there.
Daniel Foxsmith’s script is one of those simplistic beauties that has a lot of dialogue about trivial things, such as stables and dart players, that on paper seems a bit pointless but lends itself brilliantly to performance. This also creates ground to examine the main theme of the piece, how men approach their emotions, through what the trivial could be hiding and making the emotional scenes all that more meaningful. As a result the piece leaves a longer lasting effect as you are left thinking on how much of a problem this could be.
This script was brilliantly brought to life through direction by Bryony Shanahan. As said above some of the dialogue on the page seems trivial but the direction made all the scenes meaningful and interesting, with not one flat scene through the whole play. The challenge of setting the play on a livery with horses was also tackled beautifully with lovely simple physical movements, which also were used in scene transitions leaving the piece to flow.
This was my first visit to the Finborough Theatre so I was very interested to see the intimate performance space. This space was transformed by the simple design touches added throughout. From the plain plank stable, sparsely decorated, to the strong splashes of light used for horses the design gave us hints and impressions without being in your face, allowing the performance to be the focus.
A huge credit also lies two the actors who give magnetic performances that keep you engaged for the 80 minute run time. David Crellin’s Samuel gives us the steely, seemingly uncaring father role in the piece holding some scenes with simple looks, but throughout reveals the softer, caring side allowing us to understand where he’s coming from and also why Jim would seek him. Dan Part, balances this out with an energetic and controlled performance as the youthful Jim, bouncing across the space whilst giving us real heart.
Overall, Weald is an interesting and engaging play where it feels like everyone involved has given their all. This leaves you with a performance that keeps you focussed throughout and trying to figure out what these men are actually there for. This play also has takeaway value for everyone, despite taking place in a rural livery, as by looking at how men talk (or don’t) about what’s going on you wonder if there is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.
Until 27th February 2016. Book here
© Daniel Ramsden – 2016 – @DanielRamsdenFL
Photo © Alex Brenner 2016