Until June 08
CONOR McPherson’s modern classic has aged well. It’s been 16 years since the Dubliner’s haunting work opened in London to wild acclaim and his profound, ghostly and wickedly funny tale of loneliness and loss still has the wherewithal to shock and surprise at each turn.
Afforded a long overdue revival at the Donmar, McPherson’s masterpiece focusses on a cast of Leitrim locals as they prop up a country bar, dulling their present with copious amounts of alcohol.
Brian Cox’s Jack bellows out his lines as he holds court over quiet pub owner Brendan (Peter McDonald) and exhales his amusing agitation at having to drink Guinness from the bottle due to the tap being on the blink.
Shy and awkward Jim (Ardal O’Hanlon) is a fellow country bachelor acting as full-time carer to a mother “fading for years”. He tops up McPherson’s picture of three single men suspended in their isolation and binded by booze.
Animated by the arrival of “blow-in” Valerie (Dervla Kirwan), the trio are aggrieved that the giggly Dubliner is being shown around the locality by local wide-boy Finbar (Risteárd Cooper), a showy, married man who, unlike the trio, “got out” and made something of his life.
As the conversation swings from the jovial to the ill-natured, the four men begin to re-animate their past of fairy roads, graveyards and the departed in the vein hope of impressing Valerie, who shocks them all with her own supernatural story.
Playing out over 100 minutes, director Josie Rourke’s production is beautifully acted and thoroughly mesmerising throughout. It’s particularly a joy to witness Cox in full flow. His closing tale of lost love and missed opportunity is a masterpiece, not just of writing, but of still delivery. McDonald too shines as the likeable Brendan among a uniformly excellent cast.
Most striking of all, however, is hearing McPherson’s effortless writing 16 years on. The conversation between the five characters is so naturalistic that at times you forget that this is acting. We could be simply listening in on real people.
Rourke’s production plays up the comic in the pub exchanges – and there are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout. To temper this, the play’s ghostly elements are teased out and played for atmosphere and emotion. It’s at its most still, however, when The Weir packs its punch. McPherson’s great skill is in moving so effortlessly from the trivial to the profound and the cast’s execution of his words is flawless. Elegant and poetic, The Weir placed McPherson among the ranks of theatre’s greats. This mesmerising production serves his work well. Not to be missed.
The Weir runs at The Donmar, London until June 8.