The Weir

Posted on: 19 February 2014 by Laurence Green

Brian Cox and Dervla Kirwan standout in this wry, funny and moving reworking of Conor McPherson's The Weir writes Laurence Green.

Brian Cox in The Weir at the Wyndhams TheatreSome plays like fine wine seem to improve with age, as they appear to acquire a greater maturity abd resonance! One such work is Conor McPherson’s award-winning 1997 play The Weir, directed by Josie Rourke which, following a sell-out run at the Donmar Warehouse, has transferred to the Wyndhams Theatre in the West End.

On a cold, stormy evening in a remote Irish bar four old friends gather, settling in for a lock-in to swap old tales as they laugh and drink into the night. But when the arrival of a young female stranger from Dublin, haunted by a secret from the past, challenges the men to impress her with their ghost stories, the night takes a dramatic turn more real and unsettling than any of them could have foreseen.

Not much happens in McPherson’s play but this apparent simplicity is deceptive as the piece is rich in melancholy and regret, with lonely lives and opportunities missed. Yet there is the glimmer of hope that companionship as well as a satisfying pint brings. Josie Rourke’s production takes time to find rhythm and the balance between the comic and the tragic, yet it skilfully draws you into this completely enclosed world so that you become involved with the characters, their lives and the stories they tell. Furthermore, Tom Scutt’s atmospheric set firmly places you in this isolated watering hole, which acts as a meeting place for these lonely male souls.

The cast rises splendidly to the occasion. Brian Cox gives a standout performance as Jack, the grumpy melancholic garage owner. Ardal O’Hanlon impresses as the painfully shy handyman, Jim, whose mother is fading fast, while Peter McDonald’s reserved barman Brendan emotionally estranged from his sisters, and Risteard Cooper’s Finbar, the flash, resented, married businessman are equally excellent. There is also a commendable performance by Dervla Kirwan as the dignified newcomer Valerie who, when asking  for a glass of white wine, is given half a pint and whose presence shakes up the assembled male crowd, unused to female company, while the personal tale she tells is so chilling it sends you out feeling shaky.

In short then, this wry, funny and moving drama about grief, loneliness and loss has a universal quality that keeps you firmly under its spell for almost two unbroken hours.


The Weir

Runs at the Wyndhams Theatre, London, until Saturday 19 April 2014

Box office: 0844 482 5120


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