Written by Conor McPherson, 1997
Directed by Chris Tully
Produced by Ellen Zagar and Hannah MacDougall
Conor McPherson’s critically acclaimed play, The Weir, is set in a rural pub, 1997 Ireland. Unlike most plays that you may be used to, the main goal of The Weir is character study, rather than conventionalized plot structure.
The gist of the play is that the pub’s regulars, Jack (Stuart Harden), Brendan (Maxim Makarov), Jim (David Woroner) and businessman Finbar (Conor Somers) take turns telling ghost stories to the pretty young woman from Dublin, Valerie (Ella MacDonald), who has just rented a house in the area. The paranormal themes and discussion of faeries and mysterious occurrences are to be expected, for what would an Irish pub be without some Irish folklore? The play is meant to take the audience on a journey to this small pub, named The Weir, through the reminiscent storytelling and familiar banter that is common among old friends.
From all the KTS shows I have seen, I have come to know that they excel at creating an immersive atmosphere, and The Weir is no exception. Forget an expensive plane ticket and get a ticket for this show instead, because this may be the most immersive production I’ve seen KTS put on so far. When you enter the Pit, if I should even call it that, you will be transported to Ireland (without the jetlag) and open the door of The Weir. If you arrive early, be sure to grab a beer from Brendan at the cash bar, and claim one of the couches by the fire.
A potential alternative choice to the set could have been the use of a thrust stage, with audience seating on three sides, to further immerse them in the storytelling. Although the Pit is effectively transformed into a quaint Irish pub, there is still a visible fourth wall between the audience and the performers. It would have been interesting to see what the performers could have done with the added depth. Regardless, the use of furniture for seating, working cash bar and numerous other small details, such as old photos, effectively create the illusion of a pub.
Something I did note was the overwhelming quiet, which is uncharacteristic of most pubs. From what I had heard about the play prior to attending, I had expected a livelier atmosphere. I think this could be remedied with some sort of background music, even if played quietly. Unless someone was speaking, I could hear the electricity buzzing in the lighting, and I regret to say, I think this lent to the relative lack of energy of the performance. Of course, most plays don’t have music or sound effects in the background and I think the reason I noticed this time was that it felt like something was missing, considering pubs are usually noisy. Furthermore, every other sound, regardless of how small, was distracting from the play. I do love the choice to use live violin to enhance the first story, given the setting, and I would have loved to have more music to support the atmosphere. In comparison to the otherwise completely quiet theatre, it was distracting from the words of the story.
As the play progressed, it seemed as though the actors fell into a pattern of speech, and pauses became longer as the play neared the end. As this play does not rely on plot, the emphasis is on character study and the development of relationships. The second act did not meet the expectations set by atmospheric build and energy of the first act. Based on my past experience with the KTS, I know that the cast and crew are more than capable of accomplishing this.
Regardless of these relatively minor notes, it was entertaining to take a short vacation to Ireland and enjoy a crisp ginger ale with the locals at The Weir. The show runs until Nov. 18. More information can be found here.
CORRECTION: This article originally stated the play is set in 1977 Ireland, when in fact it is set in 1997.