The Weir

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  • Drama
Critics' choice
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© Francis Loney

Brian Cox (Jack), Peter McDonald (Brendan), Ardal O'Hanlon (Jim), Risteard Cooper (Finbar)

© Francis Loney

Dervla Kirwan (Valerie), Brian Cox (Jack), Peter McDonald (Brendan)

© Francis Loney

Dervla Kirwan (Valerie), Brian Cox (Jack), Risteard Cooper (Finbar)

© Francis Loney

Ardal O'Hanlon (Jim)

© Francis Loney

Brian Cox (Jack); Peter McDonald (Brendan), Ardal O'Hanlon (Jim), Risteard Cooper (Finbar), Dervla Kirwan (Valerie)

© Francis Loney

Brian Cox (Jack), Peter McDonald (Brendan), Ardal O'Hanlon (as Jim)

© Francis Loney

Brian Cox (Jack) and Dervla Kirwan (Valerie)

The only theatre worth spending a night on is the kind that takes you out of yourself to somewhere else – with other people. This modest 1997 play by Conor McPherson, the thinking man’s Martin McDonagh, spends its time in a rural Irish boozer, passing banter and ghost stories with four ordinary blokes and a bird.

But it’s also a bright little portal to the kind of eternity drunks see in the bottom of a whisky glass: a muddled soulful place where hot words fade fast, all loves are lost and you huddle round the fire to keep out the endless night.

It’s not all poteen and yarns about dead kiddies, mind. Apart from its hammy start, Josie Rourke’s Donmar production has a lovely, genuine way of finding the comedy in that half full, half empty glass.

Often, lazy writers and actors get cheap metropolitan thrills by sneering at yokels. Not in this local. The cast, led by the superb Brian Cox as a compassionate old loner, taps into the unfailing generosity of McPherson’s play. Even unscripted moments – like the one where Peter McDonald’s barman meticulously pours out half a pint of ancient white wine for his surprise female guest – are funny because they’re taken so seriously.

It’s what doesn’t happen that speaks volumes, and sets this quiet play apart from the violent new myths created by the likes of McDonagh and Brian Friel in Ireland’s ’90s dramatic renaissance. Everyone fancies Dervla Kirwan’s mysterious Valerie, down from Dublin – but no-one has a crack. The three bachelors who never left town resent the local linen-suited slicker Finbar (Risteard Cooper) – but no-one actually offs him.

The thing that binds these ragtaggle characters together – and holds this play back from the corny snogs and fisticuffs of a million other one-room dramas – is love. It’s not romantic blarney. But it’s there: in the dogged affection that this unassumingly brilliant playwright has for the people he writes; and the sense of grace and even benediction that settles on the end of their evening, when everyone, no matter how drunk or gripey or tragic their stories are, look their fellow creatures in the eye and feel sorry for their loss.

By Caroline McGinn

Average User Rating

2.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:6
1 person listening
John R

Utterly tedious. Did the critics go to another play called The Weir that was the polar opposite to this pap? A pointless story, poorly told, dully staged and not particularly well acted. Brian Cox has clearly employed Russell Crowe's voice coach; his Irish accent was all over the shop. Very off-putting. Dervla Kirwan's big speech is excruciatingly awful. It's like she's reading it from cue cards. Ardal O'Hanlon is the one bright spot, albeit a very dull bright spot. I spent most of the second half of the play wondering if I'd fallen victim to some massive spoof, thinking surely nothing this bad could make it on to the West End stage? But it wasn't and it is.

James L

Utterly tedious. Usual "theatre laughs" trying to make out the most unfunny things are funny. Only in the theatre can people really think that someone saying "oh, F**K" is hilarious. I saw some great stuff at the National lin the last 12 months, especially Othello and The Amen Corner. The Donmar lot just seem to be po-faced smug tpes up their own backsides. This play was neither dramatic or enlightening. And certainly not entertaining!


Loved this. Quite surprised by the one stars: were people expecting a west end show? It is nicely paced, enjoyable story telling; presumably anything you read beforehand makes it clear its a group of people, in a single evening (in realtime, with no intermission) telling each other stories in a pub. And by doing so, you find out about them, and their history, and the history of where they're from. Nicely done, and really well acted by the case.


Saw this on Friday. It's a long time since I've spent such a tedious evening in a theatre and found mainstream reviews of this play deeply misleading. I didn't even think it was particularly well acted. Just one pub bore after another and no one who was remotely engaging. Glad I had a good evening seeing "Fortune's Fool" at The Old Vic the night before.


If you want to waste 90 mins+ and good money being bored and disappointed by tedious tales told in dubious taste... THEN GO FOR IT!! We can't understand why the 'critics' reviewed this production so highly? There was absolutely NO tension in it whatsoever,.. it's reassuring to learn that our opinion is shared by others

Christine Williams

Maybe because I live in Ireland... didn't enjoy the play. I've heard those stories years ago. Nothing fresh. Over the top acting at times. Love Kirwan's one bright performance moment and O'Hanlon was credible. Cox's slipping in and out of accents from Scottish to British to Irish was jarring. Stage setting unimaginative. And not believable it was 1997. Pre-1985 maybe. It wasn't dramatic, just a story. Not 'theatrical'. Murphy has done this much better in Conversations on a Homecoming.


I am Irish, so after reading good reviews of this I looking forward to it. Maybe I missed something but I wasn't particularly moved by it. The characters were familiar cliches as the old bachelor types who spend to much time in the pub boring each other with the same old stories and jokes, a bit sad really. The acting was very good and Ardel O'Hanlon stood out for me as the most believable character. The constant references to the "Germans" who frequent the bar in the summer I found a bit annoying. Can anyone explain what the play was all about other than a few people talking in a pub?


Saw this last Thursday. A disappointment. The acting was great, particularly the female lead... but nothing happens. Just one long scene or men talking about things that had happened to them, little of it interesting. Admittedly, I fell asleep for about 20 minutes, perhaps half an hour, so perhaps I am not the fairest of judges. Annoying as my mum had booked it for my birthday, , we didn't really want to talk about the play afterwards. Little to say about it! Go if you have lots of money and have seen everything else in London.

Adam Lewis

Went to see this on Saturday night (8/2). To be honest I was very disappointed in the whole play. The acting was good, and Brian Cox was excellent. However nothing really happened as in, it was like spending an evening watching people smoke and drink. The play was advertised as some great shocking stories, and infact they are very bland, and not very shocking at all. It was a very disappointing evening in all. No interval, so be sure you go before hand, and it ends at 9.20pm. I could have sat in an irish theme bar in Leicester Square for a better night out and free. I would give this at best 3/10 and that is generous


More plays should be set in pubs as its something of a comfort to people, as they can really unwind and converse freely without being judged. This is seen perfectly in this production. A classic night of story telling as lets face it, we all love to talk about ghosts.

The Man on the Street

Spent the whole evening in an Irish pub - didn't have a drop to drink but LOVED the stories. The Weir is as good as ever and this cast is superb. Wonderful stuff. Now, where can I get a Guinness ?