Talking Movies

January 31, 2023

The Weir

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 7:23 pm

The Abbey revives Conor McPherson’s all-conquering 1997 play of ghost stories in an isolated Leitrim pub to a somewhat curious effect.

Jack (Brendan Coyle) arrives into a small pub to find the tap for his chosen tipple isn’t working. So it goes with laidback barman Brendan (Sean Fox), who gives Jack a bottle instead. They are soon joined by the quiet but sharp Jim (Marty Rea), and anxiously await the arrival of local tycoon Finbarr (Peter Coonan), who is bringing ‘Dublin’ blow-in Valerie (Jolly Abraham) to the bar. The men are concerned that Finbarr, a married man, is being unseemly in his attentions towards Valerie, and are equally concerned that he is turning them into dancing bears as a show of local colour for Valerie. But in the end the unseemliness comes from the concerned locals, as a number of local ghost stories pour forth, becoming progressively darker as the night draws in and the beers and short ones mount up.

Director Caitriona McLaughlin’s handling of The Weir is curious, not least her decision to drastically cut down the playing space of the Abbey by placing a car outside the pub, and shoving all action to one half of the stage. She also lightly amends the play to make Valerie, not a woman from Dublin, but a woman from Ohio relocated to Dublin relocating to Leitrim, which seems to be putting a bit more weight on the play that its structure can support. Not least as it sets up a problem with tone. This is the second time I’ve seen the play since Patrick Doyle parsed the script for me as a Mametian series of power-plays. Seen in that light the stories have suspicious similarities of theme, to say nothing of the escalation; Jack narrates a historic haunting, Finbarr narrates feeling a ghost behind him, Jim interacts directly with a paedophile’s ghost, and Valerie’s daughter returns via a ghostly phone call. The fact that Valerie unleashes her trumping story after a trip to the toilet supports the idea that she’s had enough of these strangers trying to unnerve her and has decided to beat them at their game. A certain histrionic quality to her telling of the tale only plays into that, alongside the fact that Abraham and Coonan seem to be giving performances in a different register to the other members of the cast. There is a certain cartoonish larger-than-life quality to Coonan and Abraham, which does not sit at all well with what Rea, in particular, is doing. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the individual turns, but as an ensemble it doesn’t make any sense – it’s like keeping Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future alongside Christopher Lloyd.


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