The Gaiety Theatre in Dublin is currently showing a production of The Weir. Written by acclaimed playwright Conor McPherson in 1997, The Weir won the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Olivier awards for Best New Play when it was first performed in London twenty years ago. It has been hailed as a “masterpiece” by the Guardian and as “beautiful and devious” by the New York Times. Essentially, McPherson has crafted a fairly well loved piece of work, and while one should never argue with the critics, or award givers, I seriously missed the memo on this one.
We are a fly on the wall of a small pub in rural Ireland. Five lost souls come together, escaping the storm that rages outside. We meet Jack, a cantankerous local mechanic; Jim, Jack’s assistant, who lives with his elderly mother; Brendan, who owns the pub and businessman Finbar Mack, accompanied by Valerie, a Dublin woman who has moved to the town of Carrick, bringing with her great intrigue (or at least she tries to).
Nothing between the lines
So here we have our motley crew. A band of ghosts, seeking shelter in one another, suspended in the storm. Due to the simplicity of the plot, this play should have been a celebration of language and story-telling. Instead, we have a gang of people on a stage, pretending to drink alcohol, taking turns to share stories from their past; urban legends, folklore; the paranormal, stories of grief and lost love. I’m a big fan of a metaphor and reading between the lines, but for me, there was nothing between the lines. Of course, not all plays need to be great epic tales, but I believe that they should at least attempt to tap into our emotions; they should prod us and make us feel something familiar. Due to careless production and lack of direction, there was never a chance for this play to get going. Instead, I spent an hour and half waiting for the tension to begin.It seemed like the performers were told to be very well behaved, keeping to time and staying in the lines. They were reciting lines on a stage, but it should have felt like we too were sitting in a pub in middle Ireland, hiding with them in the shadows.
Performances from Gary Lydon and Janet Moran were quite strong, but they were working hard to revive something that was never going to start. Even when Moran tells a story about her young daughter’s untimely death, the reaction from her lonely comrades was underwhelming and it felt like she herself wasn’t that affected by the tragedy of it all either. The Weir was originally built to stir up the dregs of loneliness in us. It appears to me that the writer’s intention was to remind us that life is fleeting and that loss is one of the most profound and pervading elements of our existence. However, the whole performance, created by Decadent Theatre Company and Verdant Productions, felt empty. It trickled along, asking nothing of us; it just was. For me, if a play is about people, laid out in such a simple way, then we must see something of ourselves in it, it should envelop us. McPhearson wrote this play as a tribute to the written word, but the performance was not given the care and attention it deserved, it was nervously coughed out in front of us. We were not living the loss with these characters, we were merely lost.
For those who would like to the opportunity to disagree with me, this play will run until 4 March at the Gaiety Theatre. Tickets From €24.50 (Including booking fee and €1 restoration levy). You can find out more and book tickets here.