The Weir is Conor McPherson’s groundbreaking play; produced by Royal Court in 1997, it made him a big new voice in London while he was still in his 20s, and it has been revived countless times. It is written with a low key; There is very little conflict and interpersonal dynamics are subtle. No murder, no seduction, no betrayal: the drama lies in the personal revelation.
He is set in a bar in the remote countryside of Leitrim. It was reported that a woman from Dublin had bought a local boarding house. Her presence in the area caused controversy among the men; bachelors and married boys alike. Large local hotelier Fintan took Valerie to the pub to show her around. This is followed by a narrative section, where each man tells a story with a supernatural element. Haunts and fairy fortresses feature, but one case involves a pedophile. The stories gradually darken. Then Valerie tells a haunted story of her own, more terrible than any man’s story.
This is an intimate play and director Caitríona McLaughlin arranges the characters neatly in a tight setting. The stage rotates to reveal Sarah Bacon’s meticulously designed pub interior: local historical photographs, square linoleum floors, heavily used furniture. Less successful was the use of two musicians, as well as a car parked outside, which drew attention to the cavernous Abbey stage. Rob Moloney’s sound design adds subtle howling wind; Simple but effective.
Marty Rea is amazing as Jim, an odd job man who lives with his elderly mother – is there anything Marty Rea can’t do? Brendan Coyle is a rude Jack who lives a life of regret. It is clear that the play is about loneliness when his final monologue reveals what really haunts him. Jolly Abraham as the soul-breather and the only female voice, took her time and ran with it.
Revisiting this play in 2022, it will feel outdated, but it’s not. Long live the loneliness and these stunted men are still there in the pub, even now with cell phones in hand. Our perception of the comfort found in a fun space has been heightened after two years of lockdown. We appreciate more and more the solace found in stories told in pubs and in theatres.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/theatre-arts/the-weir-at-the-abbey-theatre-perennial-loneliness-alleviated-by-haunting-stories-in-the-pub-42189181.html The Weir at the Abbey Theater: perennial loneliness eased by haunting stories in the pub