THE WEIR Review - The Lowry, Salford

The Cast of THE WEIR 20th Anniversary Tour

Haunting, captivating and poignantly moving, Conor McPherson’s THE WEIR has lost none of its power

When Conor McPherson’s THE WEIR first opened at The Royal Court in 1997, it took the theatre world by storm. Originally set to run for just three weeks to an audience of 60 people a night, the play quickly transferred to the West End, as well as Broadway, winning a host of awards along the way including an Olivier Award for Best New Play. More than 20 years later, the modern classic is still going strong as it sets out on a 20th anniversary tour.

Set over a single evening in a small Irish town, THE WEIR tells the story of a group of locals who exchange ghost stories round the crackling fire of Brendan’s pub to while away the hours one stormy night. As the beer and whisky flows, the arrival of a young stranger, haunted by a secret from her past, turns the tales of folklore into something more unsettling and one story is more chilling and more real than any of them could have ever imagined.

Haunting, captivating and poignantly moving, English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester’s revival of THE WEIR is as unsettling and affecting as ever. Revelling in McPherson’s powerful and poetic script, Director Adele Thomas cleverly draws the audience in with the script’s playful repartee, before unnerving them with stretching periods of silence and tension and an incredibly atmospheric lighting design from Lee Curran.

The Cast of THE WEIR at The Lowry

At the heart of McPherson’s haunting rural drama is its compelling characters with the solid cast skilfully capturing the beauty of McPherson’s poetic and colloquial dialogue. Sean Murray stands out as wise-cracking garage owner Jack, knocking back bottles of Guinness as he regales stories of the past to his captive audience. John O’Dowd equally shines as shy handyman Jim, delivering an understated performance as the quiet man with “more going on in there than you might think”. Natalie Radmall-Quirke also delivers a heart-rending performance as Valerie, the young mother consumed with pain and guilt.

While a quickly-defused confrontation half way through the show feels a little wooden and the first half is a little slow to get going, as the layers of McPherson’s piercing narrative are unpeeled, this shadowy tale begins to delve into the dark corners of human lives. Themes of loneliness, isolation and the sadness of unfulfilled lives start to creep in and the subtle storyline haunts the imagination far more effectively than most other supernatural tales.

All in all, a captivating revival of McPherson’s haunting drama which has lost none of its power.

4 out of 5 stars

THE WEIR runs at The Lowry until 27 January 2018.