In his programme notes for ‘Weald’, playwright Daniel Foxsmith cites an appalling statistic: in 2014 alone, there were over 4,600 cases of male suicide in the UK. And although suicide is never dealt with explicitly in this Snuff Box production, the battles men wage with their emotions form its central theme.
When 25-year-old Jim returns to the rural stables where he used to work, middle-aged Sam soon overcomes his initial standoffishness to accept the younger man's company. Together they feed the horses, play darts, and laugh at the solar panels the ‘Range Rover prick’ next door has stuck on the roof of his farm.
This rough-handed environment, out of place in the twenty-first century, forms the perfect backdrop to study the lack of self-worth they both feel. Jim has got a girl in London pregnant; Sam’s wife left him because he’s unable to have kids. Dan Parr is mesmerising as Jim, his cockiness and short fuse concealing a feeling of worthlessness he's unable to articulate. David Crellin’s Sam is far more nuanced than the grunting farmhand you might expect: a wearily thoughtful man who enjoys reading about local history. Together, they make a fascinating pair, their father-son dynamic swiftly changing as it becomes clear each is as vulnerable as the other.
So it’s a shame that the violent climax, then, comes at the expense of what’s otherwise a tempered, even-handed script. Sam’s shift into verbosity (‘I am 1648! I am Cromwell! I am my forefathers!’) jars, as does a final scene that tries too hard to mirror the first. But for the most part, this is a play that tackles complex and painful issues with a fluency that Jim and Sam, sadly, could never manage.