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By Jessica Keath
March 11, 2012
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By Jessica Keath
March 11, 2012
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On stage is an ambitious and faithful replica of a country pub, replete with old black-and-white photos of the Sligo weir (where the faeries live) and locals of yore, along with real, live beer pulling — a kind of thirsty torture to watch. The small-town kitsch of the set befits Conor McPherson's folkloric memory play The Weir, which leads us through the supernatural reflections of three older gentlemen trying to impress the younger newcomer in town, Valerie (Amanda Stephens Lee). She has sought solace in the country after her daughter's death and is still reeling at having received a phone call from beyond the grave.

She takes comfort in this impromptu meeting of Mystics Anonymous. The 'other world' is treated with sincerity by McPherson and is not without its own humour: Finbar (Patrick Connolly) talks of communing with the dead via a 'Luigi board' and none can stand the German faerie tourists who invade the town during holiday season. The problem is that unless one has a proclivity for the mystical, there's not much else to pay attention to.

This would be a lovely play to enjoy on a rainy day, coddled in a fleecy jumper with one's 50th birthday firmly in the past. The performances are uniformly honest and charming, with a particularly excellent performance from Barry French as the reclusive bachelor Jim, who sports what is clearly one of the finest examples of Ken Done-inspired, late-'90s Irish knitting.

Alice Livingstone's direction is clear and strong but hindered by McPherson's dramatic structure, a sequence of monologues bridged together via comedic dialogue, which doesn't allow for a dramatic arc or any forward-moving tension. Peter McAllum's final monologue of romantic regret is up there with the best room-clearing drunken rambles, and indeed, it clears the bar and ends the play. The one possibility for drama, the nascent romance between barman Brendan (Lynden Jones) and Valerie, is left to our imaginations to fulfil (on a particularly cold night at the bar after one requisite 'small one' too many).

The Weir is a ponderous retrospective piece with some endearing characters and much warmth but not a huge amount to ponder.

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