Lyceum Theatre Company
Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
A few people chatting away over some drinks in a small-town pub might seem a very trivial situation, but The Weir turns something very ordinary into something quite deep.
Conor Macpherson's play is deceptively simple, the action takes place in one room and in real time, there isn't even an interval. It is very static, little happens, yet McPherson's dialogue and the characters really draw the audience in.
It is a compellingly natural set-up, with the bar, the drinks and the cigarettes, though nothing so specific as to tie it down to a particular decade. The five characters feel very real, partly thanks to McPherson's dialogue, but also the very comfortable way the five actors inhabit their characters.
The weather is miserable outside, we hear from the characters but can also see through the semi-transparent pub back wall. The showers of rain can be seen falling on glistening streets.
In the pub, local men Jack (Gary Lydon) and Jim (Darragh Kelly) await the arrival of a new woman in town, Valerie (Lucianne McEvoy), with barman Brendan (Brian Gleeson). Valerie arrives with local businessman Finbar (Frank McCusker).
What takes place aside from drinking and learning a little about the characters is a succession of darker and darker ghost stories. The play delves into ideas about the afterlife, Christian and older celtic ideas.
Valerie's story is particularly moving, revealing the sad reason for Valerie leaving Dublin for the country. However the play is by no means a totally melancholy experience. It is punctuated with plenty of very timely jokes, including straight after Valerie's monologue.
There is also fundamentally something quite endearing about how the characters bond over their stories. Indeed even Finbar, who at first is ridiculed by the other men, does become more accepted over the evening. The way the other characters show their support for Valerie after her story gives the play a very human ending.
Jim is very sweet taking his leave of her and then the play winds down with Jack, Brendan and Valerie having a brandy by the fire before they head home, leaving you not in a dark place as it could easily have done, but with at least a little optimism.
It is a superbly contained play that makes you feel as if you are in the pub with the five characters. The skill of the storytelling keeps you totally involved throughout.
Reviewer: Seth Ewin