Four men and woman sit in a bar in rural Ireland. They drink. They share stories. They reminisce about times past. This simple premise powers the singly engaging play The Weir by Conor McPherson, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary after emerging to critical acclaim in 1997. The play has lost none of its power or mystique, and this co-production between English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester, directed by Adele Thomas, is essential viewing.
From a reviewer’s standpoint, the worst sort of good play is the one that completely overrides your critical faculties. It deflects critique with its mirror sheen of poise and the flawless execution draws you in. It’s not as though The Weir defies criticism or analysis – you can draw much upon its themes of the supernatural, solitude and masculinity – but there’s a difference between the dispassionate pondering that one can achieve after viewing it, and the experience of watching it in the here and now.
The Weir, like so many great plays, is simple and intimate but has real depths to it. And with such a skilled cast, you quickly forget about the artifice of theatre through which it is rendered. You honestly just feel like you are sat in the same bar with these people as they wax lyrical on a cold and windy night. It’s a fine art to invest so much effort into the ticks and quirks of these characters and their pub when the sole purpose of doing so is to escape notice. Everything is geared towards making this show, where tales of ghost and fairies infect the atmosphere, as natural as possible.
It’s no surprise of course that I am recommending The Weir. It won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play by in 1998. But there’s never a guarantee that a staging can rekindle the power of a piece. I am happy to say that Adele Thomas’ production does so with an assured hand. You really must go see it. ★★★★★ Fenton Coulthurst at the Everyman in Cheltenham, 27th September 2017