REVIEW: The Weir by Conor McPherson
It is every director’s nightmare. A week from performance and your leading actor is injured in a traffic accident. Arrrgh! Cancel? Director, Andrew Bruce, was determined that the show would go on and found Patrick Kealey as a replacement for the role of Jack. But no one could possibly learn the huge number of lines in the time available, so Patrick would be reading the part. Would it work?
The place is a bar in a remote part of rural Ireland, run by the amiable Brendan (Matt Turpin). It’s a place where nothing much happens: action packed or suspenseful this play is not. It is instead an exploration of character, of the myth and superstition saturating Irish culture, and of the hidden histories of the bar’s four customers. Jim (Bob Stewart), a gentle soul, a peacemaker with a deeply creepy story to tell, Finbar (Rich Keeble), who went away to seek his fortune, and has ended up back where he started, richer, sporting a too pale suit and statement red socks, but still at heart the country boy frightened by spooks on the stairs. And then there is Jack, blustering, bravura, a born storyteller, a loquacious charmer, a drinker whose life, like Jim’s, has not gone very far. Juggling drinks, cigarettes, newspaper and script, engaging with the other characters, but never losing either his place in the words or his Irish accent, Patrick Kealey dominated the show with a barnstorming performance.
Into this male enclave comes Valerie, first a catalyst for the others, triggering their stories, and later with a desperately sad tale of her own. Dominique Gerrard had to listen a lot, a real test of acting skill, staying in character while doing nothing; her big moment came late in the play, when just sitting on a bar stool talking quietly, she recounted her tragedy and broke our hearts.
The set, designed by Dee Harvey, built and painted by the Stables Theatre Workshop, was a masterpiece, it’s walls an exact nicotine fawn (Farrow and Ball take note!), it’s details accurate down to the battered chairs, ancient pictures, pump handle and bottles behind the bar. Sound and lighting were spot on; the wind ever present but not distracting, and the cyclorama above the set gradually mutating from white to night sky with a beautiful full moon at the end.
People talk, nothing happens. It’s a great evening.