The Weir

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DOI: 10.5040/9781784600303.00000002
Roles: Male (4) , Female (1) , Neutral (0)

Conor McPherson's The Weir is a play set in rural Ireland, combining tales of the supernatural with closely observed dramatic naturalism. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs at the Ambassadors Theatre on West Street, London, on 4 July 1997.

The play is set in a small pub in 'northwest Leitrim or Sligo'. Locals Jack and Jim are having a few drinks with Brendan, the pub's owner, when bigshot Finbar arrives with Valerie, a woman in her thirties who has recently moved to the area from Dublin. After some awkward politeness, the men begin to tell Valerie about the local area, including the weir that was opened in the 1950s. As they compete with each other to impress the newcomer, they fall into an exchange of spooky stories of supernatural happenings related to their own experience or that of others in the area. As the stories become increasingly frightening, it becomes clear that Valerie has a story of her own to tell – a story of personal bereavement that not only explains her recent move from Dublin but also has a profound effect on the men listening to her.

The Royal Court premiere was staged in the adapted Ambassadors Theatre on West Street while the theatre's premises in Sloane Square were undergoing refurbishment. It was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Rae Smith, with Kieran Ahern as Jim, Brendan Coyle as Brendan, Julia Ford as Valerie, Gerard Horan as Finbar and Jim Norton as Jack.

Critical reception was very favourable and the play went on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 1999. McPherson also won the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Awards for Most Promising Playwright.

The production transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End on 18 February 1998, where it played for two years with successive cast changes. When the reopening of the Sloane Square premises was delayed, The Weir was instrumental in keeping the Royal Court going while 'in exile'.

The Weir has since been performed very widely, including on Broadway in 1999. It received a major West End revival at the Donmar Warehouse in 2013, and transferred to the West End once again. It was voted one of the hundred most significant plays of the twentieth century in a poll conducted by the National Theatre in 2000.

From The Weir

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Nick Hern Books

Conor McPherson

ISBN: 9781854596437

Series: NHB Modern Plays

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