Fine Acting And Spooky Folklore in The Weir

Brian Cox in the The Weir. Photo by Helen Warner.

Brian Cox in the The Weir. Photo by Helen Warner.

Not quite the masterpiece everyone seems to be making it out to be, The Weir by Conor McPherson is a solid showcase of naturalistic story-telling and unfussy character work. Set entirely in a run-down pub on the Irish coast, a couple of crumpled barflies – Jack (Brian Cox) and Jim (Ardal O’Hanlon) – are enjoying their usual tipple, discussing cows and tourists.

Their fuzzy, funny chatter is brought into sharper focus by the arrival of local big-shot Finbar (Ristéard Cooper) and new-comer Valerie (Dervla Kirwan), who has just bought the haunted house on the hill. The rest of the play consists of the three men, along with Brendan the barman (Peter McDonald), plying the new girl with booze and trying to outdo each other with spooky stories of local ghosts and fairies.

It’s all fine and the five actors are very watchable, but something seems to have been lost in the transfer of the play from the intimate Donmar Warehouse to the more operatic setting of the Wyndham’s. You don’t ever really feel part of the pub and only connect intermittently to the actors telling their shaggy dog stories. The inert direction by Josie Rourke does not help and unfortunately the show often trips over into the soporific rather than the mesmerising. And when real revelations start to seep out as the characters get drunker, the split aims of the play almost wreck it entirely. Is this a dark drama of personal loss or a fun, hokey torch-on-the-face relay of spine-tingling modern folk-tales? In the end The Weir doesn’t quite satisfy on either level.

The Weir is on at the Wyndham’s Theatre until 19 April 2014. Tickets £10-£55. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket.

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