Friday, 21 August 2015
The Weir, Aug 20, 2015 ****1/2
By Conor McPherson, Melbourne Theatre Company
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Sept 26, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Fri 21 Aug 2015 and later in print. KH
It is the richly drawn characters with their barely masked fears and flaws that drive both drama and comedy in The Weir by Irish playwright, Conor McPherson.
In a pub in a village in the West of Ireland, four local men (Peter Kowitz, Ian Meadows, Robert Menzies, Greg Stone) consume volumes of stout and whisky chasers while they amuse a welcome female newcomer (Nadine Garner) with slightly spooky stories about fairies and ghosts.
The mere arrival of this young and good-looking stranger sparks an evening that travels from local gossip to deeper themes, expressions of fear, death and longing for a life not lived.
All the characters are flawed, frightened or damaged in various ways, and all are floundering around looking for direction in their isolated lives.
These men that live in a time capsule and an emotional limbo have rarely, if ever, examined their lives so when they do reflect, these cheerful, boozing pub blokes feel their worlds unravel.
Sam Strong’s production is delightfully gentle, funny and moving and he gives his consummate cast the freedom to create these eccentric characters and their relationships.
Kowitz is compelling as Jack, the bolshy mechanic, and he maintains our sympathy as he balances on the edge of boozy belligerence and yearning for love and a past unfulfilled.
Menzies brings a nervy and unnerving awkwardness to poor Jim, who pours back pints and chasers as he jitters on his bar stool waiting for his opportunity to interject. His ghostly story about a funeral is chilling.
Stone gives a detailed, nuanced performance as hail-fellow-well-met, Finbar Mack, the chap who managed to leave the tiny village but shivers in his boots when confronted with anything deeper than his glass of stout.
As the young, obliging pub owner, Brendan, Meadows is warm and sympathetic but Brendan remains a psychological mystery to us, perhaps because he has yet to choose and lose his path in life.
Garner, as Valerie, bides her time until, lubricated by a little wine, she reveals her grim secret that drove her from Dublin to seek refuge in this secluded place.
Dale Ferguson’s realistic design replicates the rural, parochial charm of an Irish pub but its apparent order and safety hide dark corners and mysterious doors to a forbidding outside world.
This is an accomplished production that will stay with you not only because of its skillful writing and acting, but also because of its humour, humanity and bold willingness to explore the primitive fears that lurk within us all.
By Kate Herbert