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The Weir review at Mercury Theatre, Colchester – ‘gorgeously atmospheric’

The cast of The Weir at Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Photo: Marc Brenner The cast of The Weir at Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Photo: Marc Brenner
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Twenty years on from its first production, Conor McPherson’s elegiac modern classic The Weir remains as unsettling and affecting as ever.

Unfolding over a single night in an isolated country pub, the story feels simultaneously timeless but deeply rooted in the everyday rituals of its rural Irish setting, as the locals drink, swap ghostly tales, and mock their mates.

Director Adele Thomas revels in the play’s languid rhythms, filling the production with stretching silences and taut periods of tension. If a quickly-defused confrontation late in the show feels a little wooden, the rest is impressively natural. Knowing looks and downplayed sight gags inject some comic relief while establishing the character’s long standing relationships.

A lush yet subtle lighting design from Lee Curran and Dara Hoban responds to every shift in mood with gradually spreading washes of oily green or frosty blue which inexorably overtake the pub’s cosy warmth. Richard Hammarton’s ambient soundtrack provides atmospheric creaks, bassy rumbles, and hissing, ever present wind. A repeated refrain of lilting strings underscores the play’s most evocative moments.

In a solid cast, Sean Murray stands out as cantankerous raconteur Jack, knocking back litres of whiskey and bottled Guinness as he regales his captive audience with local legends. Opposite, John O’Dowd is a fine foil for his prickly energy, as gentle, deadpan Jim. As new-to-the-area Valerie, Natalie Radmall-Quirke puts a brave face on a tragic past, but lets the mask slip often enough to hint at the profound melancholy beneath.

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Gorgeously atmospheric revival of Conor McPherson’s haunting rural drama