Review: The Weir (The Vanguard)

Venue: The Vanguard (Newtown NSW), Sep 24 – 29, 2019
Playwright: Conor McPherson
Director: Vanessa Papastavros
Cast: Nick Barker-Pendree, Damien Carr, Martin Estridge, Daniela Haddad, Alex Neal
Images by Natalie Cartney

Theatre review
Valerie is moving from Dublin to the northwest of Ireland, and in between looking at properties, parks herself at a small rural pub where she is acquainted with several locals. In Conor McPherson’s The Weir, a sleepy town provides the perfect setting for the time-honoured tradition of telling ghost stories. Residents have little to distract themselves but each other, and a landscape that bears histories most fondly remembered through word of mouth, morphing and fantastical. While various supernatural tales form the entertaining crux of The Weir, they are surpassed by a nostalgic depiction of community, one that leaves a strong and perhaps surprising impression.

With the theatrical action set in a real bar, we are immediately engaged through the unmissable familiarity and intimacy of the physical context. Directed by Vanessa Papastavros, the production is pared down but effective. Dynamics between characters are rendered with a remarkable authenticity, with a cast of five that is endearing and compelling, manufacturing an easy chemistry that provides foundation for their performance, able to transport us effortlessly through time and space.

Actor Damien Carr brings a richness to the role of Jack, animated but also considered, adept at communicating a sense of depth that gives the show its gravity. Realtor Finbar is played by Nick Barker-Pendree, memorable for the confident zeal he introduces to proceedings. Valerie, the blow-in, is portrayed by Daniela Haddad with an understated and elegant naturalism, appropriate for these tight confines. Martin Estridge and Alex Neal are charming and very believable pub dwellers, both offering valuable colour to this memorable representation of small-town life.

No matter how outlandish our stories, for as long as they resonate, we can be sure that truth can be located therein. If ghosts are real, it is only because we believe in a certain essence of life, that exists beyond the flimsy nature of matter. It reflects an understanding of the eternal, that in one form or another, each entity leaves behind an imprint, whether significant or minuscule, and that our actions when alive must have an impact. This could be construed as wishful thinking or indeed, delusions of grandeur, but the fact remains that ghosts have always been, and we have always known ourselves to be consequential.