Review: The Weir

MOLLY O’CONNOR is impressed by the good parts of The Weir, but sees a few rough edges.

Cambridge Corpus Corpus Playroom mainshow Tab The Weir Theatre Weir

I’ve got to be honest, I went into this play with high expectations. I am a huge fan of Conor McPherson and I firmly believe that The Weir is one of his best works. Therefore I was delighted not to be disappointed by this very strong production, which truly captured the spirit of the Irish countryside and the eerie magic of its superstitious traditions.

The play centres around a group of men spending the night in a pub one windy night. The arrival of a mysterious female newcomer from the city leads to each of the men sharing a story of an experience he has had with the supernatural in the area. The addition of an actual working bar on the stage selling alcohol prior to the show was an inspired way of building the atmosphere before the show had even begun, leaving the audience feeling immersed in the world of the play.

The working bar on stage was most welcome, and a triumph for the atmosphere.

Overall the cast was strong, with the actors working together to create a real sense of tight-knit community that is so often found in small villages such as the one where the play takes place. The audience felt as if the actors had known each other for years. Their sense of camaraderie and playful joshing gave the play a real authenticity, and added moments of welcome humor to what is at many points a very dark play.

The stand out performer of the night was unquestionably Kate Marston, whose performance as Valerie was utterly spellbinding. Her performance in the earlier half of the play was believably awkward yet likeable, but it is in the latter half that she truly came into her own. Her monologue was so heart-wrenching and her grief so raw, that I am unashamed to say that I was moved to tears by her performance.

This is not to say that the play was without flaws. There were a several lines flubbed throughout the night which took a while for some performers to recover from. While this could be possibly be overlooked in a different production, or put down to opening night nerves, it did hamper my engagement with the show. In a play such as The Weir, which relies so much on building an atmosphere of mysticism and suspense, any obvious line mishaps jar the audience and shatters this atmosphere.

The plays dark moments were most often well-executed, but didn’t always hold total focus.

In addition to this, there was a noted lack of engagement from certain actors inbetween their characters speeches. Given that the play contains a number of long monologues, I can understand that it might be difficult for the actors on the sidelines to stay in character during their long periods of silence. However this is no excuse for the way certain actors eyes seemed to glaze over as their fellow actors delivered their lines. I sincerely hope that they’ll sort themselves out over the course of the run.

I must finally mention the accents. As an Irish student living in England, I have lost track of the number of horrendously bad imitations of Irish accents I have heard since moving here. So you can imagine my relief, and pleasant surprise, when I found that in this play all of the accents were absolutely spot on. I could not faut them, and it was obvious that great time and effort must have gone into perfecting them. For this, I cannot praise the cast enough.

All things considered, any Irish person missing home or any one who just wants to get a taste of Ireland in general, save yourself a few pounds on a plane ticket and head down to Corpus Playroom to see The Weir. The play is solid and well-done, but with some more work and engagement there could be serious potential in this production.

65% – a confident 2.1.


Photo Credit: Simon Lock