The Weir review from 1998

Saturday, 28 February, 1998

Directed by Ian Rickson, the newly appointed Artistic Director of the Royal Court, "The Weir" is eerie and entrancing, and keeps you captivated for the whole 1 hour 45 minutes of the play, with no interval.

The story is set in a small pub in a remote part of Ireland. The landlord and two of his regular customers 'Jack' and 'Jim' are chatting about the weather and other unimportant events. However, when 'Finbar' a local man made good, comes to the pub with 'Valerie', a woman he has just sold a house too, the conversation turns to describing a ghostly happening in the house she has just bought. This sets all of them off, with each having a ghostly incident to tell that happened to them at some stage in their past life. However, 'Valerie' has a traumatic story to tell of her own!!

The play is full of rich characters that are exploited fully by a wonderful cast: Brendan Coyle, as 'Brendan' a gloomy but kind bar-owner: KIERAN AHERN as 'Jim' a bachelor in his 40s: Des McAleer as the lustful 'Finbar': Julia Ford as 'Valerie', an attractive woman haunted by her past. However, the best performance is from Jim Norton as 'Jack', a cantankerous man in his 50s who never married and although he says he never regrets it, it is clear he does.

The popular press like the play. NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD describes it as a "canny, beautifully acted production". CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "I have rarely been so convinced that I have just seen a modern classic". " MICHAEL BILLINGTON says the play is "Unmissable". BILL HAGERTY of THE NEWS OF THE WORLD describes it as "both funny and touching" and JOHN PETER of THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "This is a wonderful play, acted with a delicate but eloquent restraint".

This is not a play to see if you are feeling tired because it is a quiet and relaxing play. A bit like sitting in front of a log fire reading a good book, even though you like the book you still start to feel sleepy. However, it is a charming and touching play of missed opportunities, loneliness, haunted memories and love.

(Darren Dalglish)

For the third time, the Royal Court Theatre offers us a chance to see Conor McPherson's play, The Weir, previously at the Theatre Upstairs, now showing at the Duke of York's.  Set in a bar in a remote part of Ireland, it reveals the reactions of a barman and a couple of regulars to the arrival of an outsider. As those in the pub settle down to their alcohol, each person tells a story involving some supernatural (mainly ghostly) occurances.

Directed by Ian Rickson, and now (Spring 2000) starring Miles Anderson, Daniel Flynn, Ruth Gemmell, Karl Johnson and Anthony O'Donnell, this Olivier Award-Winner for 'Best New Play 1999' has had much success both in London and on Broadway.

After so much hype about this production, I thought it about time to go and see it.  On entering the Duke of York's small, black auditorium, the first very striking thing, was Rae Smith's brilliant design.  In the middle of the stage is a small, pleasant-enough pub, but around it, is the entire stage space of the Duke of Yorks, completely exposed to the audience, with ropes and ladders hanging around.  It was very atmospheric.

The performances, though not always clear with the accents, were very strong, but especially seemed very real; we might as well have been sitting watching a real, interesting evening in a pub.  The play starts a little slowly, but when the whole cast is on stage, and the story telling begins, that is when the real 'action' starts.  The four men all tell a ghost, angel or fairy story in turn, so as to try and impress a young woman, Valerie.  However, after the four have had their go, Valerie comes in with the biggest shocker of them all, which adds a perhaps slightly needed twist to the otherwise slightly dragging evening.

However, the play is atmospheric, well and realistically written, well directed and well performed.  But perhaps two hours with no interval is a little long...

(Jonathan Richards)

Looking for the best seats...