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  • Chris O'Rourke

The Weir


Brendan Coyle and Jolly Abraham in The Weir. Image Ros Kavanagh

****

Some plays age gracefully. Some come to resemble themed pubs. Director Caitríona McLaughlin’s sensitive take on Conor McPherson’s The Weir, first produced in London in 1997, captures the best of both worlds. A world where Harp lager and packs of ten cigarettes are bought and smoked at the bar. Where white wine is a posh girls drink. A world inhabited by a company of the damned. Local Leitrim lads damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. Leave, get married, buy a drink, it didn’t much matter. Each haunted in more ways than one. Congregating in a small, rural pub they foster a kind of half baked friendship to fend off loneliness. Their man’s world about to become emotional with the arrival of Valerie, a beautiful blow-in from Dublin sporting her own damage. Culminating in some pathetic peacocking and tales of things that go bump in the night. Of dead voices down phone lines and spectres haunting graveyards. Community built from the stories we tell ourselves and each other. Brought to life in the shared act of storytelling.

Brendan Coyle and Jolly Abraham in The Weir. Image Ros Kavanagh


The notion of a themed pub proves apt. Sarah Bacon’s set dominated by the kind of rural pub that’s fading into the mists of time, its neon sign beckoning in the dark like a lost soul. Bacon’s dry iced mists, aspiring towards fairy forts and The Random, suggesting a car from 1989 with engine trouble unlikely to get much on a trade in. Trying too hard to crank up some Celtic twilight replete with fiddle, bodhrán and a haunting score. Creating a meta-theatrical distance between the diminished bar and the audience via a forced frame it didn’t need. McPherson’s dialogue all the music and magic required, which McLaughlin arranges to near perfection, making it all look natural and effortless.

Marty Rea in The Weir. Image Ros Kavanagh


Brendan Coyle’s masterful big man Jack, Sean Fox’s barman Brendan, Marty Rea’s handyman Jim, and Peter Coonan’s man about town Finbar make for a first class ensemble. Rounded out by the lone female voice of Valerie, which sees Jolly Abraham excelling, deftly handling being present and listening for long, inactive periods while keeping the audience engaged. Marty Rea particularly sensational in this regard. Like some master of The Method, Rea is busy even when you’re not looking. The periphery of your eye catching scratching, focused reading, or averted looks. His gorgeously delivered sympathies to Valerie enough to move a stone to tears. McLaughlin’s cast letting the words do the work without undue histrionics. The “ah’s” and “you knows” not just colloquial colour, but vital inflections and rhythms. Story lying not just in words, but in tones, pauses and silences. Its ebbs and flows revealing fear, grief, and loneliness as five lost souls unite in a shared moment.

Marty Rea, Peter Coonan, Sean Fox, Brendan Coyle and Jolly Abraham in The Weir. Image Ros Kavanagh


Some plays stand the test of time. The Weir succeeds in that regard, allowing us view the present through the past. To see organic community as opposed to corporate community. Encounter rational beings who believe in the Tuatha de Danann. See connections found through stories even as communities fade. Here, loneliness is informed by company, immanence informed by transcendence, in a moving and often hilarious production. Beautifully directed and performed, even allowing for some natural drag, it all goes nowhere, having nowhere it needs to go. All the while taking you exactly where you need it to.


The Weir by Conor McPherson, directed by Caitríona McLaughlin, runs at The Abbey Theatre until January 14.


For more information visit The Abbey Theatre

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