You could be forgiven for thinking that The Weir was a simple collection of modern ghost stories. After all the plot itself is impossibly simple, four men in an unnamed rural Irish pub sit, drink, smoke and chat. All the while they introduce newcomer Valerie (Dervla Kirwan) to the town, and during this session they incidentally tell a series of unconnected stories of their haunted pasts. The plot is simple; Josie Rourke’s production is nuanced to perfection.
Conor McPherson manages to capture the insular nature of an Irish village, its glory days behind it. There is a loneliness and xenophobia in its inhabitants as they talk of the “Germans” who will invade their drinking hole in the forthcoming weeks. It’s as if civilisation has passed them by, the pub doesn’t have white wine, let alone a functioning ladies toilet; and the Guinness tap has broken. But his characters don’t need these modern conveniences because there is an immense feeling of community in this play. A feeling of the joy we get in just being in the same room as other people; laughing, drinking, and the healing nature of sharing unspeakably emotional stories. At times it’s as if something very reminiscent of Jerusalem (Jez Butterworth) is going on here. McPherson’s play is also one of an old land, of fairies and ancient magic. Locales and offstage characters are given such detail and painted so vividly by the cast continually adding to the thrall of tension and mystery.
Rourke’s production dances between these captivating stories and pub banter fluidly, through absorbing little pockets of silence, stillness in which the passage of time is marked by the faint tick of the clock in Ian Dickinson’s sound design. This is a highly observed piece of direction.
The performances from an all star cast are knowing and honest, with everyone taking Jack’s (Brian Cox) advice to “relish the details!” Peter McDonald shows us a man who is haunted by what he could become, and Dervla Kirwan a woman haunted by her past. Brian Cox is astounding as Jack, his surface is a charming and energetic idealist, occasionally betraying a solemn and sad realist beneath, and the frame of a man haunted by missed opportunities.
I felt at times that I was waiting for something to happen, for some grand climax to the performance. Without spoiling anything for you, the ending surprised me – made me shed a tear and crack a smile, and it didn’t disappoint one iota. The Weir is a story of people, community, and home. It’s about all that we hold dear, the ethereal wonder of the universe, of faith, and the things we have lost.
***** (5 stars)
Runs until 19th April 2014