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The Weir at the Donmar. Three stars

June 2, 2013

This intimate play is set in a remote Irish country pub where the locals banter and bicker with one another giving us plenty of laughs. However, this is no simple comedy. There are numerous silences – as in real life when three single men spend virtually every night together. It is a slow burn with no real ‘action’ to speak of. A snapshot in time of one night in the pub. A pub that has photographs on the wall including one of the local weir – a dam that provides the hydro electric power to the community. The photo on the wall is when the weir flooded, and perhaps this is a reference to the metaphorical bursting of the dam that we witness in the play as the characters eventually open up and speak from their hearts about their sorrow and sadness.
We have Brendan, the gentle, modest barman farmer, Jack, the big and blustery aged bachelor, and Jim, the slightly slow off the mark mechanic who cares for his Mum. All rubbing along in their usual way when Finbar arrives. Finbar, the one who got away and found success and marriage. He is showing Valerie, the new arrival from Dublin, around.
The dynamic in the bar changes as we watch the men perform for Valerie – regaling her with local tales of the supernatural. There is comedy, there is drama, there is tension. The men are worried they are scaring her, but Valerie is in fact comforted and reassured by hearing about others supernatural experiences and gives her the confidence to tell her own story of real haunting grief. This revelation in turn allows Jack to recount his regret at throwing away his chance of marriage because of his own cussedness. The loneliness of all three single men is palpable.
We saw this in its original London run in the late 90s and I preferred that production. Partly probably because of the unexpectedness of it – I wasn’t expecting the silences, the sadness whereas i knew what was coming this time – but mostly because Brian Cox (as Jack) was too dramatic for me. Too thespian, rather than the less over the top version Jim Norton gave us in 1999. Plus his accent seemed to go all over the place. So, I would have given the original production 4 easy stars and this one gets 3.

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