It’s hard to believe but Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s seminal, Olivier-award winning play The Weir is now twenty years old. To mark that significant anniversary, a new production is currently on tour which takes in several Yorkshire venues.
Set in a rural Irish pub, The Weir is a masterly exercise in tension and beautifully crafted storytelling. Four men, friends for many years, meet in Brendan’s bar and while away the time telling ghost stories. Into their midst comes a young stranger, haunted by a secret from her past, whose story is more chilling and real than any of them could have foreseen.
The play has been a success around the world and McPherson attributes its appeal in part to the its structure. “People really love being told stories; you don’t see that in theatre very much,” he says. “And the way it addresses ghosts and the supernatural in quite a believable way – they are really talking about the unknown – is something about that people can relate to.” It is also about grief, loss, desire, longing and loneliness – all relatable themes which recur in McPherson’s work. While he is never afraid to explore the darker areas of human experience, there is always a thread of dry humour to leaven that and The Weir is no exception; in parts it is very funny with a nice line in relaxed banter.
It is a sign of the modern classic it has become that in two decades it has lost none of its power to move, chill and entertain.
At Harrogate Theatre to September 23 and at Cast Doncaster, October 3-7.