Home » Reviews » The Weir, Donmar Warehouse

The Weir, Donmar Warehouse

Conor McPherson
Directed by Josie Rourke


Pros: A relatable script, great cast and a beautiful set make this a theatrical experience that draws you in and makes you feel like you are in a country pub in Ireland, eavesdropping on the locals.

Cons: No real negatives to mention – it’s funny, touching and enjoyable but not very exciting or dynamic. There is nothing really to challenge or chew over.

Our Verdict: This is a lovely, quiet, funny, heartfelt play that seems to capture the essence of the soul of the Irish country life, and the ghosts of the past and the present. A nice play, which I think would appeal to a wide audience.

Courtesy of The Donmar Warehouse

Walking into the Donmar for this production, I was struck immediately by the set. A small, shabby,

run-down pub with every detail seen to, from the torn box of crisp packets to the left over scrap of

tinsel on the corner of the bar – for all money it could be one of those locals we all used to stumble into before Gastropub was a ‘thing’. The set of The Weir is fantastic, it even smells like a peat fire is burning and instantly you feel you are there. And that is where you stay for the duration of the play. It is one evening in a local in rural Ireland, and here we meet the regulars, hear stories about their day, the old times, the ghosts and faeries that haunt them still. This particular night is different, there is a newcomer to the area, a woman on her own from the city. Her presence provides the catalyst for telling stories and draws out the personalities and cleverly crafted characters of the stalwarts that are in the pub every night. The newcomer has a story of her own, and these tales form the basis of the script, which poignantly reveals the life of the village past and present.

The production is perfectly cast and as we expect from the calibre of the Donmar’s reputation, the characters are brilliantly brought to life, so credible even in their most vulnerable moments. First we meet Jack (Brian Cox – no, not the professor!), an older, enduring character, full of the craic and the blarney, who fires up the evening with more than the odd ‘small one’. Cox is brilliant, so believable you would swear you have met him before. Then in comes the landlord, Brendan (Peter McDonald) a quiet, unassuming younger man who inherited the pub, the house and land upon his parents passing. Brendan personifies the wrench between the old ways and the new as he struggles to decide whether to sell the top field for development. McDonald evokes a really genuine gentleness to this character, a resignation almost without effort. They are joined by Jim (Ardal O’Hanlon of Father Ted fame) an awkward, socially inept country lad, still living with his ailing mother, past the point of a life of his own. I was a little dubious about O’Hanlon as I have a strong perception of him from his TV days, but he is such a fine actor that this was quickly put to rest. O’Hanlon portrays his character with such touching delicacy, he is by far my favourite character of all of them.

The atmosphere tangibly shifts as Finbar (Risteard Cooper) arrives with Valerie (Dervla Kirwan). Finbar is a local boy who left the area and has made it big in the city, only to buy up the town. In his capacity as local landowner, he is showing the new comer Valerie the sights, throwing his newfound wealth and city charms about. Cooper really gets the dual aspect of this character, the puff and bluster tinged with insecurities. Kirwan’s character, although present throughout most of the play, has little to contribute until she adds her own story to the evening’s tales. Kirwan is well cast in this role and sits comfortably amongst the stronger male parts.

 There is not too much more that can be said without spoilers as this play is really about the characters we meet and the ghosts of their past. This play has oodles of easy humour, touching poignant moments, strong characters that are excellently performed and a fantastic set – all the ingredients for an enjoyable show for all generations.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Weir runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 8th June 2013
Box Office: 0844 871 7624 http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/whats-on/donmar-warehouse/2013/the-weir

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