The boundary between the supernatural and the ordinary is made permeable in Conor McPherson’s The Weir. Twenty years after its premiere, the latest production at the King’s Theatre sees the humour crackle fiercely while strange stories send shivers down the spines of the audience.
We are immediately thrown into the world of Brendan’s pub with some powerfully atmospheric lighting and soundscapes. The pub itself has been beautifully constructed with an acute attention to detail that avoids stereotypes, and its authenticity belies the fact that this is a touring production. The audience are invited in, and one imagines they could visit the pub and the characters it plays host to.
It is to the credit of Director Adele Thomas that she and her actors handle the silences and pauses with the skill they do. Thomas’ attention to the minutia of the ordinary is clear from the outset with the arrival of a surly Jack (Sean Murray). The wholly silent action in which he wipes his boots and serves himself at the bar holds strong in its casual nature and provides an insight into the regularity and even repetition in the lives of the characters. Murray’s performance is effervescent from beginning to end, conveying humour and bitterness with equal weight.
Natalie Redmall-Quirke has a difficult task as Valerie being thrust into a man’s world and she conveys the awkwardness yet independence of her character well. However, in her monologue that should pack a powerful punch, she lands somewhat shy of a glancing blow. There is an argument for an understated performance, however one feels more variety in her performance is needed.
Pub owner Brendan (Sam O’Mahony) is a master of the subtle comedy this play thrives on. He particularly makes the search for a wine glass in a bar that serves mainly beer and spirits, comedic yet wholly believable. John O’Dowd’s ‘Jim’, tied to the area due to his ill mother, has a convincingly socially-awkward edge that is in sharp contrast to the showman that is Finbar (Louis Dempsey). Dempsey’s Finbar, brims with confidence, whilst moments of vulnerability add a sympathetic side to a hardened character. Despite the intimacy of the public house setting, poor vocal projection at times caused some important moments in plot and character development to be lost. Nevertheless, the chemistry between the actors is powerful as they allow conversation to flow as freely as the alcohol.
The subtlety of lighting changes that intensifies the delivery of these tales is hugely effective and only noticeable once complete. There is however a rather unnecessary musical effect that plays for the briefest of moments in the show and sadly is a step too far – adding nothing to the production and often distracting from the power of the dialogue and lighting effects.
Criticisms aside, this is a brilliantly nuanced production that celebrates the talents of designers and actors alike. It is a must see for any lover of the subtle power theatre holds.
Runs until 24th February
Image: Marc Brenner