The Weir might have won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play back in 1999, but it’s really rather hard to see why. The story, set in an old Irish pub, basically focuses on locals sharing ghostly stories with one another, gradually starting to share more and more about their lives. There’s very little room to understand the character’s complexities, and therefore it’s difficult to really care about them as all they seem to do is tell one long story after another, unrealistically taking turns to share their monologue. Clearly I’m missing something, but this certainly isn’t an edge-of-your-seat play – it is one where you absent-mindedly drift into thoughts of your own, and worry if you have missed something vital to the plot, only to realise there really isn’t any kind of plot to follow.
That said, the cast in this production are strong, with easy-to-follow Irish accents. There is a little too much hand-waving going on for my liking, which is distracting, and the classic inexplicable moving about on stage comes across a bit odd as I’ve yet to meet many people who would get off their seat in a pub to parade around the floor for no reason whatsoever. The direction by Adele Thomas seems standard, with the actors playing their roles fairly two-dimensionally. Louis Dempsey as Finbar is the most energetic of the cast, whilst Natalie Radmall-Quirke and her ever-present hair-fiddling plays her role with confidence.
The set, designed by Madeleine Girling, is truly reminiscent of an old Irish pub and it brings the play’s setting to life beautifully. The ominous sound and lighting also add to the overall atmosphere, though it does lead me into a false sense of suspense, wondering exactly what the creepy climax would be. When the curtains close, I was surprised to see a first act last over an hour and a half, to find that the play had in fact ended without an interval.
It’s a pleasant production of what is a pleasant play, but for a gripping night out or a standing-ovation calibre of performance, this one probably shouldn’t be high on your ‘to watch’ list.