Whilst I’m writing this late in the day, The Weir has now finished its run at the Sherman Theatre, as a co-production with Tobacco Factory Theatres, it will be in Bristol from 25 October -5 November. And it is well-worth a journey.
Directed by Rachel O’Riordan there is something almost magical in what is created. How can 1 hour and 40 minutes of story telling in a pub keep an audience engaged? It is in the simplicity that the art of spinning a yarn is appreciated, the rapture of Conor McPherson’s words are brought to life in a way that leaves the audience enchanted, held in breath for humour or empathy.Having seen Conor McPherson’s St Nicholas at The Other Room earlier this year I felt prepared for surreal themes which might come forth. And there was familiarity in the whimsical but I admit that I found myself preferring this play, with less of the extreme. It is as promised in the programme, delving deeper “in Irish heritage, in folklore and in stories of faeries”.
As we are welcomed into an Irish pub, somehow stripped bare, yet with familiarity and home. The warmth of a wood burning stove, a bar with an unreliable pump. A choice of beers, spirits and little else. Of pictures on the wall, memories preserved. A window into the solitude and community of a rural Irish location.
We are introduced to the four regulars, uneasy realities become known. Brendan as the owner of the bar perfect in presence of overseer. Observing, summarising and somehow in spite of stoicism keeping the conversation on track and in check. Jim, unable to become the individual preserved as he bears the weight of caring for his mother. Jack, full of the known, the rhythm of routine, yet tied to a community for reasons unknown. Finbar, with the charm of success, making good yet held to friendships of youth.
Then there is the catalyst, the ‘blow in’, Valerie, performed with soul by Orla Fitzgerald. The evening’s events seemingly growing into Valerie’s tale. Her story more emotive, more fulfilled for the tales which have gone before.
The performances throughout are strong, the momentum builds throughout through the stories of individuals.
And yet, for the heartbreak of stories, there is something which isn’t lost.