The Weir - Review

Conor McPherson's award winning play may be short on incident but it is full of well crafted, naturalistic dialogue. Set in a small bar in a remote part of Ireland, the play is a celebration of Irish storytelling. It is full of humour as well as moving moments.

Having just brought a nearby property from him Valerie, a young woman from Dublin, is introduced to some of the bar's habitués by Finbar, a onetime local man who has gone on to become a successful business entrepreneur.

In the bar are three unmarried men; the pugnacious Jack who claims to enjoy his independence whilst at the same time urging the much younger Brendan, the owner of the bar, to get married. One later learns that he once had a fiancée but that he foolishly passed up on the chance to marry her. The third is another older man, Jim, trapped at home looking after his elderly, sick mother.

The arrival of Valerie sparks off undercurrents of sexual rivalry between the men including Finbar, a married man. One senses that he is a bit of a lecher but lacks the courage to pursue his desire.

When the joshing amongst the men dies down, the play moves into a series of tales of ghostly incidents told by the three older men. This encourages Valerie to relate her story involving the death of her daughter. The telling of it is a form of catharsis for her.

Each story was a monologue that allowed the actor a chance to demonstrate their skill in gripping the audience's attention. In every case their delivery was spellbinding and it was a strength of the production that their fellow actors enhanced the atmosphere by remaining absolutely still during these speeches.

The play was beautifully directed by Pat Boxall who captured the various moods of the piece and managed to draw out fine performances from her cast. Nick Brice captured well the mercurial temperament of Jack – quick to anger and quick to forgive. His telling of the breakup with his fiancée was so well handled revealing as it did the other, softer side of this character's nature.

As the barman, Brendan, Nicholas Richards, grew into the part and delighted with his shy, gaucheness towards Valerie. He was well matched by John Griffiths' portrayal of Jim. He made him a simple soul with an air about him of being lost. One feared for his future once his mother dies.

Nik Hedges gave a fine performance as Finbar. He conveyed well the air of aloofness and superiority over his former neighbors yet at the same time gave out a sense of unease at being back with them.

Rita Stone was excellent as Valerie especially in her painful telling of the chilling story concerning her daughter.

So much skill and effort had gone into building up the tension in the first half of the play that it was a pity that the piece could not have been played without an interval. The cast had to start all over again in the second half.

 

Barrie Jerram
17 May 2005