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Critique of "The Weir"

Updated on February 26, 2014
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The Weir is a modern Irish play set in a pub located in the Irish countryside. The single act show focused on a cold, windy evening in the pub where locals exchanged tales and anecdotes about the town and their lives. It is said that alcohol makes people speak the truth and this play presented the honesty that can come with imbibing copious amounts of liquor. The heart of the show was rooted in impressing a new, young woman in town, Valerie, with ghostly legends embedded in the town’s history. As the play continued, the stories deepened in their personal significance to the characters. Outwardly, the show was about an evening in a pub, however, the messages it conveyed were far deeper. The play was about how people react to and cope with life-altering experiences in their lives. Though the show was often humorous and filled with witty banter between the male characters, it was a beautiful display of human emotion and life experiences.

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There are a handful of reasons that The Weir has had such positive feedback including winning the Lawrence Olivier BBC Award for the best new play when it opened during 1997/1998 season. I think one of the most obvious reasons for its success is the ability to relate to the setting and the characters. The setting, a local bar, where the barkeep acts as a friend and confidant who often provides counsel to the patrons is a familiar scene. Each of the characters had a story that could easily be related to anyone from nearly any walk of life. Brendan was the barkeep who was constantly surrounded by people, yet still alone. Jack was the grouchy, older man who drowned his problems in liquor escaping from the life he chose to create for himself. Finbar was the hotshot who left his small town for the big city in order to make something of himself. Valerie was the new woman in town who was looking for a fresh start after a harrowing life experience. The play was of personal interest to me because of my affinity for the supernatural and paranormal. I was fascinated by the ghost stories and the subsequent discussions that surrounded them because it is not a topic that is openly discussed in American culture. It was particularly interesting for me to draw parallels of my own experiences against certain things mentioned in the play. One of the comments made about the use of the Ouija board, along the lines of a warning by Niahm’s mother not to use the Ouija board because of the uncertainty of what it will bring personally resonated with me. My own Mother warned me against using a Ouija board with the concern of not knowing what type of spirit—benevolent or malevolent, it would attract. I was also intrigued by the discussion of the fairy road and how certain characters saw and heard things that were not of this realm, since I am also afflicted by this fate. It was reassuring to hear that even though it is not something commonly discussed in American culture, it is prevalent enough in other cultures to be illustrated in a play.

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To my knowledge, this play has not been made into a movie, and with good reason. One of the most vital aspects of this play was the intimacy created by the size of the stage and theatre. Since a pub is typically a small, intimate setting, the theatre echoed this concept, which aided in establishing the intimacy and realism of the scene. This brought the audience right into the story along with the characters. The show might also be challenging to convey in a movie since it took place in one setting, in one evening. The lack of dialogue at the beginning of the show also would likely not be utilized in a film, but was perfect to show off the skill of the actor and build his character’s role. Also, the fact that there were many monologues utilized might not translate fluidly onto film. These ideas lend themselves to the fact that The Weir was written and intended to remain a play. The relationship between the characters was expressed in such a way that might have been lost on film. I was brought to tears by Valerie’s story because it was so poignant, which would likely have not been the case if this play was a movie. I personally believe that there is only a certain amount of emotion that can be captured on film. When an individual sees a show in person, it is the responsibility of the audience to interpret the story first hand, whereas with a film, the interpretation is already constructed via the editing through the director’s perspective.

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The Weir was a wonderful example of the human condition because the progression of the characters was so apparent from the beginning to the end of the play. At the start of the play, it seemed that Jack was merely an old curmudgeon, set in his ways, but by the end of the show, he was kind, caring and ultimately vulnerable. Finbar initially was a cocky man who put himself above the others because he left the town for the big city, but as the story developed, it was shown that he left the area in fear, almost running away from his problems. Originally, Valerie’s character was introduced as the hot, new girl in town, but it was revealed that she had a dark secret in her past. The play showed the old adage, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” since all the characters were not who they were initially portrayed as. Even though the story took place in a pub, it showed the complexity of the characters personalities and how deeply the human psyche can affect the course of each individual’s life. This story could be retold in any country or location, as the concepts it dealt with were universal and not directly correspondent to the area. The human condition was truly the focal point of the play, as it was an exploration of how the characters evolved through an evening of conversing together in a pub. Humans are innately social creatures, so even though they began this story as independent beings, the play focused on the creation of relationships that can be cultivated through shared stories and common experiences.

Trailer of "The Weir"

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    • MJennifer profile image

      Marcy J. Miller 3 years ago from Arizona

      Beautifully written and comprehensive review, Arielle! I've enjoyed various productions throughout the UK on my past trips -- and I would certainly see The Weir based on your assessment. You make an excellent point about live theater leaving interpretation to the audience rather than having it pre-determined by a director -- I believe that's even true of filmed theater productions, as even the camera angle and what the cameraman chooses to focus on are a means of interpretation.

      Happy to share this!

      Best -- Mj