Finborough Theatre, London – until 27 February 2016
Guest reviewer: Francesca Mepham
Being only playwright Daniel Foxsmith’s third full length play is rather a surprise, as WEALD is a work that radiates expert craftsmanship, which obviously shows experience is not a necessary component in comparison to sheer talent when constructing a masterpiece. Finborough Theatre, one of London’s leading venues for new works, is no surprise to be the theatre showing this very classy two hander.
At the beginning of WEALD, the story of the ‘return of the prodigal son’ is apparent in the character of Jim (Dan Parr), returning to the rural livery yard to the arms of mentor Sam (David Crellin). Six years away shows that life does not change for the rigid and intelligent older Sam, who has kept up a façade, even after the event of his wife leaving him. The familiar story soon gives way to a much more intricate tapestry, due to the wonderful text as well as skilful characterisation from Crellin and Parr.
The phrase ‘impressive chemistry’ is often thrown about in theatre to describe a strong relationship between characters, rather than a genuine connection felt between them. An impressive chemistry is certainly felt though between the exuberant and almost naive Jim, Parr commands the stage with every line and movement of the play, with the much more thoughtful and weary Crellin as Sam. The chalk and cheese dynamic feels fresh and endearing, as these two men squabble over Jim’s live wire attitude to an affluent neighbour, as well as changes in modern technology. Sparse staging set design by Christopher Hone, with just the yard necessities needed at the far end of the stage on a wall, was almost symbolic of the feeling of just existing for both characters, in this quite solitary existence masked by humour so well by Foxsmith’s text.
Director Bryony Shanahan has created a very interesting fast pace at times with the two men dashing around and upon the stage which created a hub for the audience who really felt they were a apart of this story. The task of creating imaginary animals through the actors pulling ropes attached to set and talking and touching imaginary horses and livestock, was intriguing, as in all honesty took perhaps a while for the audience to adapt, but soon it began to feel very natural. The modern and fresh direction also showed the great vulnerability of both the men especially towards the latter stages of WEALD, when the cracks in both men’s life become heartbreakingly projected.
WEALD is a triumph in very many aspects of the production, most notably for it’s stand out performances from David Crellin and Dan Parr. Daniel Foxsmith’s great understanding of the subject of the play and human fragility, is making him a playwright whose future work will be highly anticipated.
WEALD – Finborough Theatre Until 27th February
Review by Francesca Mepham