The Weir – Abbey Theatre – Review

The Weir – Abbey Theatre – Review

Dates: 26 November – 14 January 2023
On the Abbey stage
Images by Ros Kavanagh

This is a play about ghost stories, as we meet five characters in a small pub in rural Ireland on a wild and stormy night. We are introduced to a group of men sitting in a pub, with the publican Brendan (Sean Fox), along with two customers Jack (Brendan Coyle) and Jim (Marty Rea). They discuss the local happenings and in particular the arrival of a single woman called Valerie (Jolly Abraham) to the area. She doesn’t have any obvious connection to the town and is living alone in a farmhouse. A local hotel owner by the name of Finbar (Peter Coonan) has taken an interest in her and is showing her around the area, despite the fact he is married. Finbar and Valerie arrive at the pub and settle down for a relaxed evening. When they start to discuss the history of the locality, Jack tells a story with a supernatural slant. This tale alters the mood in the pub, as each in turn shares a tale of the unknown.

The play was first performed in 1997 at The Royal Court Theatre when Conor McPherson was only 28 years old. It was one of the plays that helped to launch his career and it won the Evening Standard Critics’ Circle and Olivier award for Best New Play. The play is a regular on the stages of Ireland and will be known to many.

The production uses a stage within a stage to create the confined and intimate atmosphere of a rural pub. The stage and backdrop create a lonely and eerie car park, with the pub on one side of the stage. The pub itself has two walls, allowing the audience to see what is going on inside. At the start of the play, the outside wall of the pub is visible, and it slowly rotates as the production begins to reveal the world within. Two musicians (Courtney Cullen and Éamonn Cagney) play fiddle and percussion on stage to add to the atmosphere.

The production has a few regulars on the Abbey stage, with Marty Rea as Jim and Peter Coonan as Finbar. Marty Rea plays an uncouth but well-meaning mechanic that works with Jack. Peter Coonan portrays Finbar as a wheeler-dealer, there is a touch of a used car salesman in his shifty and slippery presence. Brendan Coyle is already associated with this play, as it is the work where he made his name, winning an Olivier award for Best Supporting Performance in 1999. Here, he returns in a different role, that of the older garage owner Jack. He is a warm and fiery character and is enjoyable throughout. Jolly Abraham plays Valerie as an innocent, dropped into this small town with its wily ways.

This play has been produced on numerous occasions since its original run over twenty years ago and many will be happy to see it in the national theatre for the first time. There is also a whole new generation who may not be familiar with the work. The setting of a pub may be somewhat traditional but the stories of supernatural and ghosts touch on something deep-rooted in all of us, a fear of the unknown. Director Caitríona McLaughlin focuses on creating a menacing and disturbing atmosphere, allowing the fine cast along with McPherson’s words to do their work.

Valerie: Jolly Abraham
Finbar: Peter Coonan
Jack: Brendan Coyle
Brendan: Sean Fox
Jim: Marty Rea

Musician: Éamonn Cagney
Musician: Courtney Cullen
Writer: Conor McPherson
Director: Caitríona McLaughlin
Set and Costume Designer: Sarah Bacon
Lighting Designer: Jane Cox
Composer and Musical Director: Tom Lane
Sound Designer: Rob Moloney
Movement Director: Sue Mythen
Assistant Director: Matthew Ralli
Hair and Makeup: Leonard Daly
Casting Director: Sarah Jones
Voice Director: Andrea Ainsworth

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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