The Weir

It is 20 years since Conor McPherson’s play The Weir premiered at the Royal Court, and ten years since I was captivated by the dialogue in a play reading group.  English Touring Theatre’s performance at Oldham Coliseum was everything I hoped it would be, and more.  The staging is intimate, the play perfectly paced and the performances exceptional.

Set over a single scene in a single evening in a rural bar in Ireland, this play deals with masculinity, myth, reality and loneliness.  What is astonishing about this play is that every line means something, and every story recounted hits you deep down.  Because at heart this is a play about the stories we tell each other when we are together and the stories we tell ourselves when we are alone.

Three men sit in an unremarkable bar in rural Ireland.  In walks local entrepreneur Finbar and incomer Valerie, and the dynamic immediately changes.  Is this play about masculinity?  Certainly there are significant tensions from history that sit under the surface in the ways in which these men interact.  There is a quiet competition taking place all the way through; each man knows his place in the bar and in the history of the locality.   But it is Valerie that is the catalyst for what happens.  What is important is what she represents to each of these men.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of this play is the way it looks at how we weave myth and reality in the stories we tell.  The issues within the stories the men relate are big, deep and serious – death, child abuse, loneliness – but they are told with undercurrents of magic and tradition.  It is only when Valerie, a woman with no local history, recounts her own story that the men question to what extent reality and the supernatural can coexist.

The momentum and pace of the performance is undoubtedly driven by Sean Murray who is outstanding as the single man, Jack.  His own story drives us to look at the decisions we make in our own lives.  We are all proud and we all make the wrong decisions based on youthful pride.  We can tell beautiful stories about the past, but can we admit our own failings to make better decisions about the  future?

Oldham Coliseum, 24-28 October 2017.

 

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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