Log in

The Weir

The Weir

Conor McPherson

21 - 28 March 2015

Sandra Tomlinson

Locals swap ghostly stories to impress a visiting stranger. Haunting, funny and moving.


Performances

Sat 7:45pm, Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm, Thu 7:45pm, Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Sat 7:45pm

Synopsis

Described as a modern classic, The Weir was written by the acclaimed Irish dramatist Conor McPherson and won the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Olivier Awards for Best New Play. The Weir premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1997.

Join our characters in a remote Irish pub and listen to them swap ghostly stories as they try to impress a visiting stranger, a woman new to the area. Haunting, funny and moving, this one-act piece of modern theatre will have you spell-bound with gripping storytelling and revelations of love and loss.

Review

In 1997 at the age of 26, Conor McPherson wrote what is hailed as a contemporary classic. The Weir was first performed at The Royal Court, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. Additionally McPherson won the Critics’ Circle Award as the most promising playwright in 1998.

The Weir was voted one of the 100 most significant plays of the 20th Century in a poll conducted by the Royal National Theatre, London. It tied at 40th place with Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge.

McPherson’s past relationship with alcohol has been widely spoken of and many of his earlier plays contain the theme. It was just about the time of writing The Weir that he realised his personal relationship with alcohol had turned antisocial.

The play is set just outside an isolated Irish town in Brendan’s pub. On a seemingly ordinary, dark and windy night a group of local men gather for their daily tipple with the usual banter.

Describing the play as “It’s just people talking” McPherson conjures up a beautifully crafted, funny and emotionally arresting play full of tiny nuances that magically reveal the inner life and pain of his characters. The appearance of Valerie, a woman from Dublin who has just moved to the area, injects fresh and raw experience from the world outside into their lives. This prompts the unlocking of the emotional sluice gates of these men, all isolated in their various ways. The recounting of seemingly innocent ghost stories entices the characters and the audience alike into a powerful relationship with souls past but still very much present in the physical and spiritual world.

Although the night ends up being difficult and painful for all concerned the audience are left feeling that something has shifted, and that emotional centres of these poignant characters have been touched and enlivened after years of denial and stasis.

It’s a gift of a play for actors. From the start Sandra Tomlinson’s cast meshed completely believably with each other, particularly crucial in a slow burn of a play like this where relationships, personal history and subtext are the life blood of the piece. Nigel Sharpe brought the melancholic, grumpy Jack to life so perfectly and poignantly that you felt you were eavesdropping on a life rather than watching a performance. Mark Pelham as Brendan, the younger man who still has the potential to grasp a life less emotionally barren than his older friends, was perfectly cast and moved through the beautifully placed emotional shifts with warmth, assurance and truthfulness. Derek Watts as Jim who has cared for his controlling, deteriorating ‘Mammy’ for years had the poignancy of an innocent and private man who had never really grown up or into himself and brought a lovely stillness to the part. Simon Hellyer, the bombastic Finbar, really added depth to this role giving us a man who, despite his business success and family money is really a lost, precocious 8 year old desperate to impress. Victoria Brewer as Valerie, seemingly initially warm and uncomplicated, carefully unravelled her recent hidden, ongoing tragedy with authenticity and delicacy.

I have no doubt that Sandra Tomlinson’s careful direction was nurturing and empowering for her actors. The atmosphere of camaraderie as though woven over many years was palpable. Her direction of their personal stories of each character was detailed and sensitive enabling the actors to inhabit their long, mesmeric monologues while doing full justice to the music and magic of McPherson’s language.

An excellent and detailed set by Dudley Ward and his crew transported you straight into the ramshackle world of an unchanged country bar in the middle of nowhere. Lighting (Roy Gooderham) was skilled and impressive carefully underscoring the emotional and dramatic moments of the piece. In a play where the imaginative senses are to the fore, sound is central and the radio transmissions of words and music were perfectly executed by Gareth Budden. We mustn’t forget, also, the crucial voice of Niamh (Logan Brewer) that so chillingly ends this magnificent play. Sadly I missed the revival of The Weir in London in 2013, so I was really looking forward to seeing it. This was a very strong and carefully crafted production that will stay with me, and I am sure the rest of the audience, for a long time. Like a perfect novel that engages your emotions, imagination and senses to the full I was sorry when it came to the end.

Lucy Fitchett

Other Dates

Audition Sat 6 December 2014 10:00am foyer