A review of the sold out production of The Weir from Against the Grain theatre company, staged at the Live Rooms. Extra date added Sat 13th August : https://www.theliverooms.com/event/against-the-grain-presents-the-weir-play/

Over 20 years on from its Royal Court debut, Conor McPherson’s haunting drama has been resurrected once more, this time as a production by Against the Grain. McPherson’s The Weir is set in a remote rural pub in Ireland, and somehow, The Live Rooms was the perfect location for it. The seats were facing the bar and, as I had only ever seen The Live Rooms 6 shots into Emo Night, this was doubly interesting to me. It was an intimate setting, a small space where you could sit with close friends and chat the night away. So, once I sat down, I was eager for the story to begin.

When the play was first performed, it was coined as ‘Gentle, soft-spoken, delicately crafted work’( Nick Curtis, Evening Standard, 1998). And this shines through more than ever during Against the Grain’s production. The characters sit around and chat; their small talk shifting to tales of local legends and fairies, all based on McPherson’s own experience with Irish Folklore when growing up.

Dhugai Fulton plays the fantastic overbearing Finbar who is resented for moving to Dublin to make his fortune. I found Finbar’s monologue particularly eerie. During its delivery, I was transfixed. The whole room was quiet. I found myself scared, wanting to look behind me to make sure a ghost wasn’t standing there. But just like Finbar, I couldn’t bring myself to move. I was almost startled out of my seat when a group of tipsy friends walked past outside the building.

The use of sound was also extremely effective. With the illusion of the wind blowing in the background, I felt cold; haunted. It only emphasised the mood of the ghost stories the characters shared. It was also well controlled and timed at certain points, sometimes being paused for effect. Superb.

Valerie’s monologue, however, was extremely human. Without giving anything away, Valerie shared a story of her past with its own supernatural undertones. This changed the tone of the whole play – her very real experiences made things sombre and serious. Or maybe this emphasised the themes, clarified them; all of these themes up in the air like ghostly bodies now being grounded, stuck in place with one very human truth about grief and mortality. Laura Smith’s performance was incredible and brought me to tears.

On the other hand, humour was also well balanced during this performance, too. Together with the audience, I shared laughs about bartender Brendan’s lack of self-control when it came to refusing a drink. Jim was witty with his one-liners and effectively performed. And I enjoyed watching the relationship between Valerie and Jack flourish.

Overall, this was a completely enthralling performance of The Weir. It was funny, eerie, sombre, and at the end, hopeful. I walked in to strangers and left feeling like I knew the characters as well as my own family. What a journey.

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