A tale of nostalgia, grief and loneliness, Bedlam’s tender and quiet production of Conor McPherson’s haunting play The Weir allowed each actor’s earnest performance to shine through in an intimate setting. In the story, the old men of a rural Irish village come to a pub to reflect on past passions and regrets, with the younger Valerie joining the group and ending up confessing the most distressing tale of all.
The actors moved around choice set pieces; a bar, a green chesterfield armchair and a mantelpiece being the main accents. The lighting design of the play managed to highlight the most emotional moments of the story; dimming ominously when a character told a harrowing story from their past steeped in folklore and the supernatural. Such effects, in addition to the stillness on stage, created a haunting atmosphere that made each character’s emotional tale intimate, like people telling a ghost story around a campfire.
Michael Haj gave an impressive performance as the most melancholic of the characters, Jack, who had spent his twilight years remorseful of how he left a woman he used to love, choosing to remain here. Jack’s cantankerous mannerisms and tired, grumpy affects indicated his restless regret for the way his life played out. In playing the character in this way, Haj also emphasised Jack’s embarrassment in his interactions with Valerie, almost as if she reminded him of his lost love, and how he treated her.
The Irish accents were impressive, dedicated and mostly consistent, however admittedly hard to follow at times; most of the actors weren’t Irish, and when they spoke fast they began to mumble their words making parts of the dialogue indecipherable.
I enjoyed Shane Egan’s take of Jim, he played the character as fidgety and anxious, with exaggerated body language and speech, as if something was constantly playing on his mind. Egan’s performance of his story is perhaps the strongest, as he built levels of unease into his performance culminating in the flashback of an unsettling ghostly vision at a graveyard, where his troubled thoughts came to the fore in a very moving confession,
Harriet Newcombe delivered Valerie’s confession with a stumbling quietness, which worked well, as it showed that the character was struggling to get the words out and reveal the tragedy of her daughter’s death. However, perhaps Newcombe started stumbling on her words too early, as when her words faltered before the confession, it appeared like Newcombe struggled to remember her lines, instead of representing Valerie’s grief. At the end of the play, Jack apologises to Valerie for all the stories they told. It’s hard not to be moved by the comfort Valerie provides to the troubled men.
This is a somber, yet quietly uplifting gem of a production.
Runs until Saturday 31st March
Image: Louis Caro