Review Round-up: Critics convinced by Donmar's Weir?
Conor McPherson's The Weir, which premiered at the Royal Court in 1997 has been revived by the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Josie Rouke and designed by Tom Scutt.
The play, set in an rural Irish pub, follows a number of stories told by male attendents to impress a female stranger; these tales quickly reveal the dark past and present lives of the drinkers, that ultimatlely result in immediate and disturbing revelations.
The cast comprises of Brian Cox, Risteard Cooper, Dervla Kirwan, Peter McDonald and Ardal O'Hanlon and runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 8 June 2013.
… Josie Rourke's keenly edged revival... The tone is set from the minute that magnificent, craggy, great big jowly sack of a man, Brian Cox, zips up his trousers… helped out by Ardal O'Hanlon's quietly grinning mother's boy… Their host is resigned barman Brendan, whom Peter McDonald plays with a lesser degree of consoling steadiness than did Brendan Coyle… It's this peculiar Irish balancing act between breath-taking oddity and numbing normality that makes The Weir - a modern classic, that's for sure - so utterly absorbing and beguiling. For this is an enclosed world, beautifully rendered by Rourke and her cast on Tom Scutt's brown and battered old saloon bar…
… this marvellous play made Conor McPherson’s name… Josie Rourke’s casting is perfect... Valerie is Dervla Kirwan, with her beautiful broad-browed Madonna face and capacity to transcend ordinariness… McPherson’s comic gift for bathos is never cheap, but serves the absurd truth that, without scorn or denial, the worst things sometimes briefly become jokes… a particular description of a barman making a sandwich long ago becomes one of the most cathartic moments in theatre… I have known this, in a similar grief and a not dissimilar Irish bar. It was almost shocking to have it reproduced truthfully and beautifully in a London theatre.
Why, 16 years after its premiere, does Conor McPherson's play still grip us?… McPherson also has the priceless ability to invest a tiny phrase with rich meaning… Josie Rourke brings out especially well is the sense of a nightly, blokeish ritual... Brian Cox is magnificent as the cantankerous Jack... But there is wonderful work all round from Risteárd Cooper as the local landowner who now seeks to appropriate Valerie, Ardal O'Hanlon as a mother-dominated odd-job man, Peter McDonald as the quiet barman and Dervla Kirwan, whose Valerie, for all her buried sadness, is prone to fits of giggles. It's a revival that confirms The Weir's status as a contemporary classic.
...The Weir seems to grow richer with age, as is demonstrated now by Josie Rourke's beautifully acted revival at the Donmar Warehouse – a production which is glowing infused with McPherson's creative magnanimity… Brian Cox was a wonder in this latter role… Peter McDonald's excellent Brendan… Ardal O'Hanlon's kindly, dim Jim… and Risteard Cooper's flash, linen-suited Finbar… Dervla Kirwan superbly captures both Valerie's nervous desire to be convivial and the white-faced indescribable grief... truly haunting nonetheless – as this deeply humane play.
I have no doubt that The Weir is a modern classic… Josie Rourke directs a pitch-perfect production that does full justice to both the humour and the depth of this wonderful play… beautifully evoked in Tom Scutt’s design. Brian Cox… is superb as Jack… Dervla Kirwan is deeply moving… There is lovely support too from Ardal O’Hanlon as the painfully shy Jim, Peter McDonald as the likeable barman and Risteard as the flashy Finbar… The Weir will be followed at the Donmar by the premiere of McPherson’s new play, The Night Alive, directed by the writer. Will theatrical lightning strike twice in the same place? I can hardly wait to find out.
…This intimate revival is full of lovingly detailed performances, which reveal this deceptively simple 100-minute piece's ample dimensions… an excellent design by Tom Scutt… The superb Brian Cox is Jack... And Risteárd Cooper brings geniality and mischief to Finbar… Dervla Kirwan’s Valerie laps up their anecdotes… Kirwan’s performance is unaffected and quietly charming. Her naturalness is the heart of this authentic, elegiac production… This is a play more concerned with atmosphere than action, and director Josie Rourke ensures it is packed with eloquent gestures. There are golden comic moments, flashes of poetry and dense silences. The result is delicate and haunting, a bittersweet pleasure.
…Tom Scutt’s design creates the classic, old-fashioned Irish bar. Director Josie Rourke tickles perfect performances from her cast… Mr Cox saves his best till last. Jack’s closing tale of lost love is a masterpiece, not just of writing but still, almost whispered delivery. In this speech, Mr Cox pours forth much of the stage wisdom of his long years… Mr O’Hanlon here wears a beard. He tugs the heart strings with Jim’s awkward loneliness. Mr Cooper gives Finbar short-tempered swagger. Barman Brendan lacks drive and makes saucer eyes at Valerie. Fine work from McDonald and Miss Kirwan… Mr McPherson offers an alternative vision of rural comradeship moulded by memories of the dead and their still-scampering souls.