The Weir

The Weir: Lighthouse, Poole. Tuesday 7th November, 2017

Back in the 90s this wonderfully atmospheric drama won its author, Conor McPherson, an Olivier Award for Best New Play.

Two decades on it remains a chilling modern classic and is still weaving its dark magic in this 20th anniversary co-production by English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre, Colchester.

Set on a dark stormy night in a rural community in Ireland, it finds a group of regulars exchanging banter and spooky tales in their local pub. Tonight they are joined by a newcomer - a smart young woman from Dublin who is renting a local house.

We watch as the drink flows and local garage owner Jack (Sean Murray), his sometime assistant Jim (John O’Dowd) and businessman Finbar (Louis Dempsey) start relating stories of strange and possibly supernatural occurrences. The woman, Valerie, (Natalie Radmall-Quirke) listens intently.

Publican Brendan (Sam O’Mahoney) supplies the whiskey and Guinness. He is genial and helpful but a little non-plussed by the presence of Valerie whose request for white wine causes him to scurry off and search his house for an undrunk Christmas present which is then served in a half pint glass.

As the evening wears on Valerie finally reveals her own story, a shocking tale that explains why beneath her cheery demeanour there have been occasional glimpses of a deep melancholia.

  The Weir (which is the name of the pub by the way) offers some wonderful dialogue, a delicate balance of humour and tension and an astute observation of the relationships between essentially lonely and isolated people in a remote community. They all live a life tinged with regret and Brendan’s pub offers some kind or refuge from their unfulfilled lives.

A strong cast under director Adele Thomas breath life into the rhythms and nuance of Conor McPherson’s play. An excellent set and great lighting and sound evoke the kind of down-at-heel pub that ostensibly has nothing going for it but is given character by the customers who use it.

*The Weir is at Lighthouse, Poole, until Saturday.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022