Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester’s revival of Conor McPherson’s Olivier award-winning play The Weir arrives at the Lowry’s Quays theatre this week, proving it is as fresh and as engaging as it was when it took the west-end by storm back in 1997.
Set in a rural in a rural Irish pub, vastly unvisited out of tourist season apart from by its entirely male regulars, conversations are familiar amongst Brendan (Sam O’Mahony) the happy-go-lucky landlord and middle aged locals cantankerous Jack (Sean Murray) and mild mannered Jim (John O’Dowd), both bachelors with their own crosses to bear. Tonight however something is different, Finbar (Louis Dempsey) the local fella turned successful businessman has been seen with a woman, not only has he been seen with a woman but he has been bold enough to bring her to the pub, and him a married man and all, changing the landscape of the status quo from the minute she arrives.
The Weir is a play based entirely round the art of storytelling in which writer Conor McPherson delivers the loneliness of small-town life in Ireland for his isolated characters with humanity and heart. Past and present intertwine as stories are shared and the ghosts of times gone by are reimagined and redelivered. Links to folklore litter the narratives as incidents and goings on become more peculiar and harder to explain, lives woven together by circumstance bonded over many years through the sharing of tales and the comfort of company now have a new source of narrative in the intriguing and attractive out of towner, Valerie (Natalie Radmall-Quirke).
The regaling of stories to entertain their visitor ultimately exposes their anxieties and loneliness, when finally it’s Valerie’s turn to share her chilling tale, unexpected and deeply powerful, the truth she calmly reveals bonds her to the group, comrades now in their complexities.
At approximately 90 minutes straight through The Weir captivates entirely, each actor on stage delivering a compelling and gripping performance, from the deadpan put downs to the infectious Irish charm. Director Adele Thomas is happily includes awkward silences, a taste of the daily norm in The Weir. While there is great poignancy there is also great wit in McPherson’s script, presented with impressive skill by this incredibly strong cast.
Just as important as the storytelling is the listening, director Adele Thomas ensures that each storyteller is the focus of their moment with fellow cast members their audience, perfectly placed around Madeline Girling’s set, while Lee Curran’s lighting design further adds depth, atmosphere and weight to each tale.
The Weir is a cleverly constructed and entirely compelling piece of theatre, goosebump chilling in parts with laugh out loud moments of deliciously sharp humour. Perfectly paced with an excellent cast and exceptional writing which will leave you longing to pull up a chair, grab a Guinness and revel in the delights of the storytellers.
On at The Lowry until Saturday 27th January tickets available here.