I can honestly say I was hooked from beginning to end of The Weir. Barely daring to breathe throughout some of the scenes, I found the acting probably amongst the best I have ever seen at the Arts Theatre. This is a play not to be missed.
The Weir, written in 1997 by a young unknown playwright – 25 year old Conor McPherson -- which then went on to win the 1999 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, weaves its humour, terror and magic.
Set innocuously enough in a tiny bar in the depths of the Irish countryside, the story presented by The English Touring Theatre tells of a group of locals, meeting for a quiet drink who are taken into the dark recesses of their minds by a stranger to the village who tells stories in the Irish tradition about terror and the supernatural.
Jack (Sean Murray), opens the action by coming into the bar alone on a dark, windy night, helping himself to a bottle of stout and, seamlessly and silently introducing the humour and superb acting that we will seen throughout. Soon joined by Brendan (Sam O’Mahoney), the bar owner, they start to talk of a new person in the village who will be joining them – a single woman no less! The talk is of Finbar, (Louis Dempsey), the local boy made good and hotel owner, who will be bringing this young lady in later. It's clear they are not sure that this interruption to their ordered lives will be welcome. John O’Dowd, as Jim, the third of this unlikely of triumvirate, soon comes along to join them in a ‘small one’ or two.
Finbar and Valerie (Natalie Radmall-Quirke) are the final of the five to join in the evenings drinking and set the scene for what turns out to be less of a social drink and more of a night of revelations, honesty and a look into the human condition of loneliness and fear.
Despite this, the humour was outstandingly played. Valerie asked for a white wine, which threw Brendon into a spin – he knew there may have a bottle ‘somewhere in the house’ and poured her a half pint to the silently impressed observation of the three other men. Hilariously done.
After a few social comments, the evening takes a sinister turn when the stories turn to the supernatural, the Fairy Road, the ‘Luigi’ board, and the ghost of a local paedophile, each story told it turn by the three drinkers.
Glimpses of absolute brilliance from all of the actors made this gripping and completely mesmerising, and the lack of an interval was complete genius. There was no way we could leave the action and pick it up again. In many scenes you genuinely could hear a pin drop as the stories reached their terrifying conclusions, but it was Valerie’s own story that causes the biggest shock waves.
Murray as Jack, had the old Irish bachelor to a T, only letting his sadness show at the very end. Finbar played the posturing, arrogant local businessman, with his own terrors and insecurities, while downtrodden Jim, off to look after his ailing mother and the slightly cynical Brandon, acted the young bar owner with little social life. Radmall-Quirke, as Valerie was excellent as the slightly hesitant girl form the city, unsure of this brash but welcoming group of locals who clumsily welcomed them into their lives – so much so that she blurted out her own horrible secrets.
I would wholly recommend that you go and see this piece of theatre. You won’t be disappointed.