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Weald review at Finborough Theatre, London – ‘too neat’

Dan Parr and David Crellin in Weald at the Finborough Theatre, London Photo: Alex Brenner

In a dilapidated livery yard, amongst the stirrups and halters and all the trappings of horse tack, two men are searching for their place in the world. The young man is just finding his, and the older fears he might have lost his long ago, and lost it for good. Masculinity’s in crisis again, folks, but while there’s plenty here that’s familiar, and nowhere near enough time to allow its wealth of themes to flourish, Weald grows in strength as it goes, and builds to a climax that hints at a rougher, rawer power.

Never quite escaping from the formidable shadow of Bea Roberts’ And Then Came the Nightjars, another two-hander of rustic stoicism which crowned 2015 for Theatre503, Weald feels cramped from the off, with writer Daniel Foxsmith’s dialogue more concerned with portentous exposition than emotional reality. The play’s brevity forces character arcs into unconvincingly steep trajectories, there’s not enough room for humour, or colour.

Happily there are some excellent pieces of staging from director Bryony Shanahan, particularly a moment in which the men gather around a dying horse, represented by a single glowing pool from lighting designer Seth Rook Williams. There is also a charmingly cragged and eventually quite imposing performance by David Crellin as the older Samuel, his Lear-like scene of storming madness bringing a welcome roar of the ancient and the primordial into a play that has hitherto felt too neat, too unwilling to muck in and get its hands dirty.

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Strong performances and a powerful climax elevate a play of familiar narrative beats