Feature: Weald questions male identity

Snuff Box Theatre has a goal, according to writer Daniel Foxsmith of the company, and it’s to create theatre where “there’s never one set style, writing or otherwise, no Snuff Box ‘signature’ other than to reach out to people through a story full of heart”.

Ahead of the upcoming Weald, written by Foxsmith himself, he was full of praise for the company. “To be around people willing to dare greatly on new stories and new ideas is refreshing, and the comfort of knowing the company takes its own time to develop work has been a huge part of our progression.” Although they aim for the same goal, he admitted there are plenty of kinks in the road, something that he remains optimistic on, “I guess I’m proud we’ve made it this far without any black eyes and too many fallouts! It’s tricky when you had a show like Bitch Boxer, both individually and as a collective – there’s a pressure and an expectancy to follow up with more of the same success”.

Weald itself is a new play consisting of only two male characters, is all about the exploration of male identity and what it is to feel male in the current climate. “I know I’m confused – confused about what’s expected of me in today’s society, not only as a man, but as a person as well”. Continuing on this chain of thought, Foxsmith elaborated, “that’s part of what Weald is about, asking questions of those preconceived ideas that we have about the role men play in our society, trying to see what’s valid and relevant and what might need to change”.

By no means is this the answer to the identity crisis highlighted in this piece, Foxsmith expressed his discontent to anyone trying to answer this question, “I’ve avoided giving a concrete definition of ‘being a man’ within the play, partly because I’m not convinced I’d listen to someone telling me they’d perfected the definition”. More importantly in the eyes of Foxsmith is the accessibility of this unique world, “I hope that it’s something everyone can access when they come and see it. There’s a great deal of my personality in there, not only in the characters but also the story, and it says a lot about where I am as a man”.

Crucially, what this play does is highlight a preexisting issue in society with male suicide rates having never been higher than in the last few years. When asked on whether he believed this issue is something we need to talk more about, Foxsmith replies:

“Absolutely one hundred per cent. It’s powerfully relevant and feeds into a whole host of other conversations about our society and the way we behave. Things are changing slowly, which is great, but people are being left behind – entire swathes of men, generations above mine, are being left out of mental health conversations because their demographic isn’t an attractive proposition for research funding. We need to myth-bust the idea that failure and emotional openness is a threat to masculinity”.

This is a subject in which Foxsmith researched in depth, “I started reading, listening and watching. News articles, studies, research papers, audiobooks, poetry, blogs. And it’s not really been done to serve the play, it’s about educating myself about the broader environment the play is a part of, the world I live in”. However, the play itself began in the form of several small exercises, including a crucial moment, “As part of an exercise, Charlotte Josephine asked me if I’ve ever been proud to be a man and I surprised myself: I couldn’t think of a time that I felt that collective pride. That made me want to understand what being a part of the ‘man tribe’ meant, and how we’ve got to where we are now”.

“I hope they get a sense of the world of the play, that mysticism that encompasses the world of horse and human. There’s a rough language in there that transcends gender and politics. But on the simplest of levels, I hope they come away having been told a good story”.

Weald is playing Finborough Theatre until Saturday the 27 February.