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The Weir review at Donmar Warehouse London

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With the Celtic Tiger now a famished pussycat, a fresh perspective on this 1997 play which premiered at the Royal Court, is just one of many joys of a peerless production.

A simply-told series of ghost stories told in a pub, this is a play which sensitively mingles the everyday with vivid echoes of the supernatural to unmask the very real aches at the heart of its protagonists.

On Tom Scutt’s wonderfully evocative and tatty stage you can almost smell the beer and whisky as Brian Cox unpeels the loneliness of grizzled, pot-bellied Jack until he finally faces his regrets full in the face. Ardal O’Hanlon’s Jim, with his constant stooping, embarrassed smiles and terrible jumper, radiates the pain of shyness and reminds us what a brilliant actor he is.

As the barman Brendan, Peter McDonald combines proprietorial good-nature with more than his own hint of emotional longing. The ticking of the clock which punctuates the silences seems a particular reminder to him of a life drifting away. Dervla Kirwan’s pretty Dublin “blow in” Valerie delivers her final, heartbreaking story of the death of her child with a beautiful, toweringly sad nobility, gripped by loss.

It’s not that there aren’t laughs either, often wrung skillfully from the silences by near-perfect direction which is sensitively attuned to the weft of each perfectly chosen line. But the final word goes to the ghosts, both narrated and on stage and to the wind which howls under the pub door, invisibly filling a mesmerizing and haunting night.

One can hardly wait for McPherson’s new play, The Night Alive, which follows this run.

Production Information

Donmar Warehouse, London, April 18-June 8

Conor McPherson
Josie Rourke
Donmar Warehouse
Brian Cox, Peter McDonald, Ardal O’Hanlon, Risteard Cooper, Dervla Kirwan
Running time
1hr 45mins
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