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Stage Dragon Review; The Weir – Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 23 Nov, 2017
Updated on: 25 Nov, 2017

by Tricia Marcotti

Conor McPherson wrote this play in 1999, winning an Olivier award for Best New Play the same year. He has continued to write more plays which have been quite successful. “The Weir”, on at the Yvonne Arnaud, is about a group of people meeting in an Irish pub. It could have happened then, and it could happen today.

To me, it comes over as a cosy evening in with friends, vying to impress the newcomer in their midst.

Sean Murray (Jack), John O'Dowd (Jim), Sam O'Mahony (Brendan), Natalie Radmall-Quirke (Valerie) and Louis Dempsey (Finbar) The Weir CREDIT Marc Brenner

Jack (left) telling a story to Jim, Brendan, Valerie and Finbar. Jack is played by Sean Murray, Jim by John O’Dowd, Brendan by Sam O’Mahony, Valerie by Natalie Radmall-Quirke and Finbar by Louis Dempsey. “The Weir” is on at the Yvonne Arnaud. Photo by Marc Brenner.

I ‘m sure that you’ve been to pubs in the countryside, a small village, perhaps, where the decor is a little tired, the locals are too, and everyone takes great delight in the stranger in the room, as a diversion to their usual evening out. The pub setting for this play is exactly that – rundown, tired, seedy, desolate.

Each of the five characters in “The Weir” has a story to tell. It becomes quite clear that the locals are well known to each other and that they must have heard each other’s stories a number of times. Seems like real life, doesn’t it?

The stage effects of howling wind and flickering lights introduced us to the first of our local characters Jack (played by Sean Murray). It is obvious that he is a local as he looks around for the barkeeper Brendan (Sam O’Mahony) and not finding him, helps himself to a drink, looks up the price and puts the money in the till. When Brendan returns, they strike up a conversation covering what they’ve done that day.

Soon they are joined by Jim (played by John O’Dowd), another local man. All three are unmarried, but Jack and Jim, but especially Jack, keep on at Brendan about getting married.

Finally, the door opens and blows in Valerie (played by Natalie Radmall-Quirke) and Finbar (Louis Dempsey). From the introductions, we find out that Valerie has bought a house in the locality through Finbar.

Each of our male characters spoke with a broad Irish accent, at least to my untrained ear. As a lady from Dublin, Valerie dressed and spoke accordingly.

Jack, Finbar, and Jim each told a story that gave Valerie an insight into the local history and people. The reaction of the listeners to each was varied. At one point, I thought we might have a fight on stage that would need intervention from the audience. But it was not to be as they sorted it out themselves.

Finally, Valerie told her story – the reason she came to the area. The men tried to reassure her.

Sean Murray (Jack), Sam O'Mahony (Brendan) and Natalie Radmall-Quirke (Valerie) The Weir CREDIT Marc Brenner

Jack, Brendan and Valerie having a discussion. “The Weir” at the Yvonne Arnaud. Photograph by Marc Brenner.

By the end of the play, I was feeling a little sad for these people in the pub. Life had touched them in differing ways and not always kindly. But, it’s the little bits of normality that make a play work. These actors have relaxed into their characters and made us feel a part of their lives during an evening in the pub.

“The Weir” is on at the Yvonne Arnaud until Saturday, November 25. You can book online by clicking here or by telephone om 01483 440000.

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