No-one tells a tale quite like the Irish. It should come as no surprise then that The Weir’s characters, sheltering from a stormy Irish night, are naturally disposed to exchange ever more haunting anecdotes as the drinks flow and long buried emotions are uncovered.
Conor McPherson’s award winning play perches the audience on a long-forgotten bar stool in the corner of a rural Irish pub, The Weir. As they settle in for the evening, it quickly becomes apparent that The Weir’s regulars are as isolated and desolate as the pub itself.
Garage owner Jack is the archetypal old man propping up the bar, lonely and craving company no matter how much his grizzled outer says otherwise. Jimmy is a quiet and slightly simple handyman, who only has his elderly mother for company at home. Tending the bar is young owner Brendan, who has little going on except joining his regulars for a small one. Together, they form a sad yet believable trio, similar to those in many a rural pub.
In a change to their nightly routine, ex-local turned hotel owner Finbar arrives with a young Dublin lady in tow. Valerie is new to the village and Finbar has been extending a warm welcome, showing her the local sights. Having eventually tracked down a bottle of wine for Valerie, casual reminiscing quickly descends into each character revealing their own ghostly experiences.
The stories intensify, echoing the howling wind outside, moving Valerie to reveal the hauntingly tragic reason for her escape into isolation. With melancholy gripping the group, they end the evening having broken boundaries and established stronger connections than any of them have felt in a long while. They might never delve as deep again but you get the feeling they will be glad of each other’s company.
The Weir is a simple yet powerful one act affair. The clever lighting design and lilting soundtrack create subtle atmospheric changes, and the dialogue feels entirely natural. Jack has the gift of the gab in storytelling mode and words flow freely. Yet in normal conversation, words are constrained and punctuated with an abundance of silent pauses.
Contrary to what you might be thinking, there are plenty of laughs too. The characters deftly mock with pub humour to hide their loneliness amongst their “friends”. Don’t expect twee jokes and slapstick, but you’re unlikely not to chuckle and smile wryly.
I’d heartily recommend catching this modern classic as it tours around the country. You’ll feel like you’ve been down to a local’s local and stolen a sneak insight behind the veil, emotionally and spiritually.
Where can you see The Weir?
You can catch it at the Everyman theatre in Cheltenham until Saturday 30th September. It then heads off on tour around the UK. However, as a small word of caution, there is plenty of language so perhaps avoid taking children. If you miss it in Cheltenham, it will be at the Bristol Old Vic in October. Don’t miss it!