Tag Archives: The Weir

Review, The Weir, Theatr Clwyd by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Whilst on holiday in Ireland a couple of years ago, a visit to the low-lying valley of Glendalough found us walking through the stone ruins of a monastery. On this particular day, the mist had come down. There was rain in the air. For a popular tourist destination, there were few people around. It was still. It was quiet. There was something about the place that gave off a mystical, otherworldly vibe. It is little wonder then that belief in the supernatural is a prominent feature in Irish storytelling. It is certainly a fixture in the stories told by the characters in The Weir. The Mercury Theatre, in a co-production with English Touring Theatre, has decided to revive Conor McPherson’s play to mark its 20th anniversary. It is a decision which should be celebrated, not only because of the exceptional quality of the script but because it speaks some important truths into contemporary society.

The audience is invited into a small town pub in rural Ireland where we are witness to the folkloric tales and ghostly stories of a couple of regulars. They are prompted to delve into the art of storytelling by a newcomer to the village. Beneath such paranormal content however, lies a much deeper and darker level of human thought and emotion. As the stories open up to reveal dark and unsettling truths, it prompts this female stranger to share a secret from her past. She has a story of her own, and its truth will shake them all. So disconcerting are the stories that they tell, several members of the audience (at least around me) clearly felt the need to react in the form of whispered commentary to neighbours or the placement of a hand over a mouth. Such audience reaction was clearly in relation to the stories, yet such impact is as much down to the delivery of these stories as their content. In this respect, much applause must go to the actors on stage. In particular, Sean Murray (Jack) was so captivatingly brilliant that one could have heard a pin-drop inside the auditorium. A large slice of recognition must also go to the production team, particularly Madeleine Girling (Designer) and lighting designers Lee Curran and Dara Hoban. To present a cross-section of the pub, where the lines between the stage and the stalls were blurred, I found, had the effect of assuming the audience as part of the action. We were, in effect, sat inside with these people, the attentive listeners to their gripping narratives. As each story was told, the gradual reduction of light caused an acute focus which made such attentiveness all the more palpable. It also created an atmosphere that became increasingly eerie and unnerving, culminating with the actors speaking under a single spotlight, and accompanied by the occasional single sharp note of a violin. Truly engrossing.

One of the fascinating elements of McPherson’s play, from a contemporary perspective, is the impact of a female presence upon the typically-masculine world of the boozer. It is clear that Brendan, the pub’s owner, has not had to bother accommodating for a female visitor for some time. He has to dash through to his living quarters to source a bottle of wine, then has to promptly serve it in a pint glass, and later must announce that the women’s toilets don’t work. This haphazard, unaccommodating state of events is taken humorously by the audience, yet despite these light-hearted observational moments, much like the character’s stories, there is also a deeper level of social commentary that speaks to the ongoing problem of gender inequality evident in traditionally male-dominated institutions. It is fascinating to see the subtle and gradual shift that takes place in these men once Valerie (Natalie Radmall-Quirke) has entered their midst. Themes of loneliness, fear and loss start to come to the surface in a less-mediated way. Vulnerability and emotional capacity open up. Suddenly, there is a glimpse of raw reality. The masculine ideal begins to crack. It is subtly powerful stuff.

If you want to be entertained, challenged, moved, and inspired then The Weir will certainly tick all of those boxes, and more. It combines pathos and humour exceedingly well. It invites the audience to inhabit its world and become utterly engrossed in its content. The stories told may be unsettling but they are gripping too. The cast excel in creating an intimate atmosphere that draws the listener in and has them hanging on every word, helped by the inspired set design and excellent use of lighting. It reminds you of the simple power of oral storytelling. So step away from your screen. Turn those electronic devices off. And experience the thrill of immediate, live storytelling.

https://www.theatrclwyd.com/en/whats-on/the-weir/

Gareth Williams

Review The Weir, The Sherman Theatre by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

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Valerie – Orla Fitzgerald | Jim – Richard Clements | Finbar – Steven Elliott | Brendan – Patrick Moy | Jack – Simon Wolfe (C) Camilla Adams — at Sherman Theatre.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) The Weir is encapsulating.

On a blustering night deep within the mystic Irish countryside, even in the comfort of community, friendship and booze there is little to be certain of. Conor McPherson’s ‘The Weir’ is a triumph in story-telling, and under the masterful direction of Rachel O’Riordan is not only chilling but compelling.

There is an odd contentment in the solace of shared experiences, and at the Sherman Theatre, on stage or off, the atmosphere was electrifyingly fused – it didn’t seem so nightmarish to be sat with strangers on either side. O’Riordan’s direction is so seamless that it thrusts and drags and clasps you into submission, before any digestion of what is happening. The audience were left desperate, grasping at any silence that could be appropriately filled with laughter.

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Finbar – Steven Elliott | Valerie – Orla Fitzgerald (C) Camilla Adams — at Sherman Theatre.

To perform a piece stepped in Irish heritage and folk-law to a metropolitan audience in Wales’ capital, and have it received so graciously is a testament to its actors and their craft in story-telling. It is a two-sided agreement in which audiences must venture beyond ‘Les Mis’ and ‘Grease’, and all that inhabits their comfort zone to access unfamiliar culture. And, equally responsible, the Sherman Theatre, as well as various other art centres within Wales are evolving the country’s arts scene, in their community events and outreach programmes; offering a way out of our ostracised communities, and incestuous thinking.

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Jim – Richard Clements | Jack – Simon Wolfe (C) Camilla Adams — at Sherman Theatre.

In Simon Wolfe’s execution of Jack there lies a particular tactful ferocity and subtlety. He is not once stereotyped or pre-empted, he is a man with principals, honour, and regret. Orla Fitzgerald as Valerie is wispy and engaging and proves less is more in her self-contained torture. She is humbling to watch. As a cast, Richard Clements, Steven Elliott, Orla Fitzgerald, Simon Wolfe, and Patrick Moy are sublime, generous and wholly complimenting as one. As each character took to share their own story, all around them would soften and their faces would become beacons in the darkness – you would go everywhere with them.

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Valerie – Orla Fitzgerald | Jack – Simon Wolfe – Brendan – Patrtick Moy (C) Camilla Adams — at Sherman Theatre.

Designer Kenny Miller’s staging is bare and simplistic offering comfortability in a no clutter/bull shit ruling for the piece.

The Weir is truthful and raw, and is exactly what is needed to counter-act any audience’s consuming of ‘TOWIE’ or one of the many Kardashian spin-off series. It is a classic of contemporary theatre; empathetic, voyeuristic, and unnerving.

The Weir will be playing at the Sherman until the 22/10/16. It then transfers to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol 25 Oct -05 Nov 2016.
http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/the-weir/

The Weir


 

Interview with Assistant Director of The Weir, Chelsey Gillard.

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Chelsey Gillard

Get the Chance Young Critic Lauren Ellis-Stretch recently got the chance to chat to Chelsey Gillard Assistant Director of The Weir currently playing at The Sherman Theatre. They discussed her journey and experiences as a young director, generous tipping of bar staff, and the basis of the show itself.

What is the Weir about, for you?

‘Ahh -this is such a tough question. The Weir is such a multi-layered play that covers so many huge topics – the supernatural, grief, the depopulation of Rural Ireland, love…. the list goes on. At it’s heart I feel the play is about the ways we connect with each other as human beings and how we chose to relate to the natural world around us. Little acts of kindness play a huge role in the script and I really think it is telling us to do those things for others when we possibly can.

Through what training and experiences have you come to be an assistant director at the Sherman?

‘I applied to be the assistant director and had to attend an interview. Before this I have directed my own work and also been an assistant director for various venues and directors. This is my first time working at The Sherman on a main stage production. I studied English and Drama at university, all through my degree and in the two years since graduating I saw as much theatre as possible and tried to meet as many directors as possible to ask their advice on how to do what they do. Before that I was also a critic – a great way to see shows and think about them in a considered and logical way.

A video of Chelsey Gillard and Rachel Williams presenting at the National Rural Touring Forum on Bridgend Young Critics Project.

How did you prepare yourself for the role of assistant director on this piece?

‘I read the play – many, many, many times. I made lots of notes on the play looking for any parts that were of particular interest to me. The play takes place in a bar so I also made notes about who had what drinks and who paid for each round and other details that would be useful in the rehearsal room. As the play is also set in Ireland I did a lot of research about the kind of area the characters live in and the folklore that is mentioned in the play.’

Do you have an impressive ‘bar’ story?

‘Oh, I’m not sure. As a young freelance director I have to sometimes work other jobs to help pay the bills, so I will sometimes work as a bartender for one off events. When I was working at a really posh wedding the father of the bride decided he liked me – as my name is the same as his favourite football team. So thanks to my name I left that wedding with a crate of the most delicious red wine I’ve ever tried as well as a great tip!’

Is there anything specific you have learnt and will take from your time working on this play?

‘I’ve learnt so much watching Rachel O’Riordan the show’s director and Artistic Director of The Sherman Theatre in the rehearsal room – she is just amazing! It’s been great to see how to usefully bring lots of research into the rehearsal process in a way that is useful to the actors. I’ve also never worked on a stage the size of the Sherman main stage so that has been a really good chance to pick up tips on how to make a show feel really intimate even when it’s in a big space.’

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Artistic Director of The Sherman Theatre and director of The Weir  Rachel O’Riordan (centre) with the cast of The Weir in rehearsals.

The Weir will be playing at the Sherman until the 22/10/16. It then transfers to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol 25 Oct -05 Nov 2016.

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/the-weir/

The Weir