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Review: THE WEIR, Tobacco Factory Theatres, 28 October 2016

It's almost 20 years since The Weir had its premiere at the Royal Court, and Conor McPherson's heart-warming tale about a close-knit community feels just as relevant today. Yet director Rachel O'Riordan has also managed to establish a time warp, evoking Brendan's Bar and providing a window into the world of provincial living, with all the history and folklore that holds such importance within these enclaves of society.

We find ourselves in a comfortable community meeting place in the deepest depths of rural Ireland - a sanctuary, which will have seen few changes over countless generations of regular visitors. It's a windy winter evening when we meet the locals of County Leitrim: a group of chaps who have a well-established pecking order, and whose mainstay of conversation involves bolster and banter.

When a single woman from the big city is introduced to the throng, for a moment the hierarchy comes under threat, but through the communal sharing of anecdotes and fables, the gathered gaggle begin to expose their real feelings for one another in a sensitive comment on human companionship and the importance of confraternity.

Simon Wolfe conducts proceedings from his barstool, and is a suitably appealing elder statesman whose gruff exterior begins to evaporate when the new addition to the clan, Valerie - played with a grave openness by Orla Fitzgerald - shares a heartbreaking tale of love and loss. Steven Elliot as Finbar and Richard Clements as Jim offer subtle succour, while Patrick Moy as barman Brendan fades into the set, only to ingratiate himself with pearls of wisdom when the atmosphere turns from fun to fractious.

Kenny Miller's design helps to envelope the audience in the warmth of the piece, with the pub tables and log burner within reach of the first few rows and the threadbare nature of the furnishings adding that familiar feel to the scenery, enabling the cast to fully explore the depths of their characters within the soporific ambiance.

The Weir at the Tobacco Factory Theatres comes from a newly established partnership with the Sherman Theatre, and in the programme notes it's stated that the aim of the project is to deliver world-class theatre to both venues. With Conor McPherson's melancholic modern classic, wonderfully performed by this stellar cast, they have more than fulfilled that aim.

The Weir at Tobacco Factory Theatres until 5 November

Photo credit: Nick Allsop Photography

From This Author - Nicky Sweetland