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Play by Conor McPherson. Directed by Ian Rickson.
On arriving at a local bar in a remote part of Ireland, Valerie finds herself spellbound by an evening of ghostly stories from the area's bachelors. Through these stories, both funny and chilling, each one of them achieves new understanding and acceptance.
Ian Rickson's production of The Weir returns to the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs at The Duke of York's Theatre, following extraordinary success both in the Theatre Upstairs in the Summer of 1997 and in the Theatre Downstairs in the spring of 1998.
Conor McPherson won the 1997 Evening Standard 'Most Promising Playwright' Award for this play, aswell as the The 1999 Olivier Award for 'Best New Play'.
"Ian Rickson's impeccable acted, faultlessly directed production... It's the kind of work that grows on second viewing - hard as it may be to imagine a better evening in the theatre" The Independent
"exceptional - a spellbinder that transfixes you...No praise, in fact, is too high...the acting is also perfect...The Weir offers the most exciting evening in theatrical London" The Guardian
"a real coup de theatre" Evening Standard
"You can even smell the peat smoke...delightfully drawn characters...You find yourself hanging on to every word" Daily Telegraph
"Ireland keeps sending us gifted playwrights and none more promising in recent years that Conor McPherson" Sunday Telegraph
"Believe me, if there is a more gripping play in London, I would let you know...Ian Rickson's direction is so good you never notice it and the acting is so authentic and unforced I swear I was in the pub with them" The Express
ROYAL COURT THEATRE DOWNSTAIRS Previewed 18 February, Opened 23 February 1998, Closed 18 April 1998
DUKE OF YORK'S THEATRE Previewed 8 October, Opened 12 October 1998, Closed 27 May 2000
Extracts from reviews from Royal Court Theatre Downstairs opening in 1997:
"Eavesdropping in rural Irish bars, where the stories turn out to be tall and spook-ridden, and time stands dead still, can never have been such a serious, desolating pleasure as Conor McPherson makes it. The Weir, which won this young author the 1997 Evening Standard Drama award as most promising playwright, was first seen in the Court's small Upstairs theatre. But Ian Rickson's canny, beautifully acted production exploits all the play's comic, ghostly and sex-war nuances, now ensuring the play casts its slow spell in a larger auditorium... The small talk, in which Brendan the thirtysomething bar-owner takes a morose part, is mighty small - involving little more than the windy weather and a broken tractor. The run of gossip, or rather its stroll, goes no further than grudging chat about Des McAleer's Finbar, who has sold a house to Valerie - a touch of university class in jeans. When the pair arrive in the bar Rickson deftly organises the seating - and standing - to suggest flickers of erotic interest and rivalry among the men. In McPherson' view these chaps - Finbar apart - have missed out on the pleasures of lasting relationships. Even the mildly lecherous, married Finbar lacks the courage of his sexual aspirations. But then the talk and the play take a significant change of course when a ghostly incident in the house just bought by Valerie is recalled. This, though, is just the start of a haunting process, in which McPherson persuasively suggests how old Ireland is possessed by its past - or rather by hallucinations, an eerie sense of things knocking in the night, and a phone call from someone speaking in the voice of dead child....Julia Ford transfixingly conveys Valerie's explanation of how she came to be haunted. It's here and in Jack's memory of failed love that McPherson memorably distills a sense of Ireland where people are their own islands of pent-up loneliness. And Jim Norton's pugnacious ruthfulness as the love-lorn Jack is as affecting as Miss Ford's Valerie." London Evening Standard
"Compared with many of the recent successes at the Royal Court Theatre, The Weir by Conor McPherson is pretty short on incident. It takes place in real time and consists of a small group of people talking the night away. Yet it is far more dramatic than many a new play, partly because it takes one so skilfully through the process of catharsis. It is a beautifully crafted and compassionate piece, dealing with love, loss and loneliness. It works because one believes so intensely in the characters that one shares the experiences they talk of, because it contains at its heart a shattering event and because it demonstrates the healing potential of storytelling....The cast give fine, understated performances that respect their characters' dignity while exploiting their comic potential. We enjoy Jim Norton as the wily old Jack, Kieran Ahern as the gauche Jim, and Des McAleer as the slightly swaggering Finbar. Brendan Coyle manages to hunch over the bar in a dozen eloquent ways, and Julia Ford is excellent as Valerie, telling her chilling story as if it were indeed being torn out of her that moment. While she speaks, the rest of the cast sit still as stone, as, indeed does the audience: a rare tribute to a fine piece of writing." Sarah Hemmings, The Financial Times
"It's a real pleasure to be able to report that Conor McPherson's play, first seen at the Theatre Upstairs last summer and now transferred to the Royal Court's main stage, seems even richer, even funnier.. even more moving on a second visit. There is a depth in the characterisation, a sense of rightness and insight in the apparently random, inconsequential and often irresistibly comical dialogue that puts one in mind of an Irish Chekhov. I have rarely been so convinced that I have just seen a modern classic. It should also be added that Ian Rickson, the Royal Court's new artistic director, does this tremendous play proud. Rickson judges it to perfection, superbly capturing its shifting rhythms and moods, the sudden silences, the unspoken tensions between the characters. At almost every moment you can guess what every character is thinking, a terrific tribute to both Rickson and the superb Irish cast. Rae Smith's design of a down-at-heel. rural pith in remote North-West Ireland is also a triumph of lovingly detailed naturalism, right down to the pungently smoking peat-burning stove....It is impossible to praise this company too highly....There isn't a single false note in the production, not a moment that strains credibility. And after an enthralling 100 minutes, in which the audience hangs on every word, McPherson ends the play with a lovely, brilliantly delayed joke which liberates us in laughter. Sheer theatrical magic." Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph
"Two strands of theatre unite brilliantly in Conor McPherson's The Weir: the Irish love of fable and the Chekhovian sense of waste. And, far from losing in the transfer from the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs to Downstairs, Ian Rickson's production has gained in case and authority....What is impressive is how much McPherson packs into a series of tall tales told by the denizens of a Sligo sung on a wintry night. Each story reveals the speaker's character, says a lot about Irish folklore and shows a group of lonely men competing for the attention of Valerie, the new arrival from Dublin....the most astonishing performances come from Julia Ford as the visitor and Jim Norton as the eccentric garage-owner. Ian Rickson's production also makes perfect use of both silence and sound. At moments the characters simply stare into the future; at others the sighing wind underscore the preoccupation with death. This is pure theatrical poetry, showing how a riveting text can be enhanced by its interpreters. Unmissable." Michael Billington, The Guardian