The Weir by Conor McPherson
Wyndham’s Theatre (West End transfer from the Donmar Warehouse)
Directed by Josie Rourke
Risteárd Cooper, Brian Cox, Dervla Kirwan, Peter Mc Donald, Ardal O’Hanlon (nominated for 2014 Olivier Award as best supporting actor)
Location, Location, Location….
When I learned I was going to go on a business trip to Liverpool and London, one of the first things I did was checking if there were any tickets to shows I had grumbled about not being able to see. Fortunately, the West End transfer of the Donmar Warehouse production of Conor McPherson’s The Weir had just begun, and I was lucky.
A few weeks later, and I really wished someone would finally manage to beam entire human beings (and not in a Galaxy Quest way if possible), so seeing shows at their original venue was possible more often. While I did think the play was very well staged and acted, I thought it got a bit lost in the bigger theatre.
The Wyndham’s fits 970 versus the 251 person capacity of the Donmar. The Weir is basically a chamber play – four guys and a mysterious female newcomer from Dublin talk in a pub – so not being able to properly read facial expressions from the first row of the Grand Circle took away quite a bit from the experience. It would be interesting if and how the opinion about the play changes from being seated in the stalls/royal circle/grand circle/balcony.
The play itself is quite funny and the conversation very natural. I could imagine most of it taking place in the last pub in Dublin I visited – if the patrons there actually had had full sets of teeth. This was only the second play directed by Josie Rourke I saw, but I do get the feeling that she is more interested in people, their actions, reactions and flaws than in flashy productions which I do appreciate a lot. By foregoing the interval (the play clocks in at 1hr 45min, so it should be possible to sit through it even for the most weak-bladdered), the risk of ripping the audience out of setting and story is also cleverly eliminated.
The one big disappointment for me comes down to marketing. I am so used to watching Shakespeare plays and the likes that I ususally know the story very well before watching the play, so I decided to go ‘spoiler-free’ for this one. Or would have, if the promo text plus the artwork for the poster hadn’t been such a dead giveway that reading the playtext beforehand wouldn’t have made a difference.
Look away NOW and scroll down to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know the big secret. For those still reading: woman with mysterious past+girl under water+ghost story=ghost of dead daughter hunting mysterious woman causing her to leave Dublin and flee to the countryside, right? My sister’s opinion on this is that I am just weird and have – thanks to jobs past and present – watched way too many TV shows and movies.
I do hope the pubs in walking distance of the theatre send thank you notes to the production team and cast. If you walk out of the play without having the strange urge to drink some thrice distilled goodness from Bow Street or its brewed, dark cousin from St. James Gate, you have my utmost respect. If the actors really had to drink what it says on the labels, evening shows after a matinée should be a hoot. Maybe they should take this into consideration for their dernière 😉