The Weir review at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘truthfully told’
Ghosts of the living and of the dead stalk Amanda Gaughan’s solidly haunting production of The Weir. It captures all the simplicity of Conor McPherson’s breakthrough script in a telling which is at once tremendously dynamic in its thrust while allowing itself to find long moments of calm and reflection.
Into the snug reality of a rural Siglo pub, where Jack and Jim sit every night with barman Brendan in the lonely man’s ritual of drinking and forgetting, McPherson drops Valerie, a young woman who has just moved down from Dublin. Her landlord, Finbar, is showing her the sites and – you understand from the trio’s backchat – probably has other designs.
The meat of the script, its substance and resonance, lies in the ghost stories which the five fall to telling each other. Jack, Finbar and Jim’s stories all have their brittle basis in fairy logic that Yeats would have recognised. But Valerie’s is a poignant, modern tale. One which, through its basis on her personal tragedy, can really only be true.
But it is in the surrounding banter and the staging, on Francis O’Connor’s set with its semitransparent back wall, lit with deceptive simplicity by Simon Wilkinson, that Gaughan makes this production fly.
The design affords a glimpse of the drinkers as they battle through the elements toward the warmth of the pub on a dreary night. In the gloaming, rain can be seen collecting on the telephone wires as the night falls and the outside world disappears, the wall coming to define the edge of their existence.
There is the faltering hesitancy of reality to the performances, too. Gary Lydon is all tensions and unresolved regret as Jack, who never could leave for Dublin. Brian Gleeson as publican Brendan has his own secrets, you feel. Their is a long and comfortable friendship here.
Darragh Kelly has a fine time as Jim, with his tale of a ghostly encounter in a graveyard. Kelly has all the resignation of a sidekick, but delivers his lines with devastating timing.
Frank McCusker brings out the deep and underlying tensions between Finbar and the other three – notably Jack – particularly well. The history between them goes back generations, you feel. And McCusker captures perfectly the slight jarring note caused by someone who is trying just a shade too hard to be smooth.
But all of these would be as nothing without a powerful performance from Lucianne McEvoy as Valerie. There is never any doubting her strength nor is there the feeling that she is at sea in this male environment. And with her own tale, she brings out the demon of remembering, allowing us to see that we still need some kind of magic, ritual or superstition to understand our modern world.
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