REVIEW: The Weir at Minerva Theatre, Chichester

Sean Murray (Jack), Sam O'Mahony (Brendan) and Natalie Radmall-Quirke (Valerie)  in The Weir. Picture by Marc Brenner
Sean Murray (Jack), Sam O'Mahony (Brendan) and Natalie Radmall-Quirke (Valerie) in The Weir. Picture by Marc Brenner
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Pubs are places where many tall tales are told. But in this play, the stories say more about who’s telling them.

What starts off as four men in a pub telling ghost stories to impress their new neighbour, a young woman from Dublin, slowly mutates with each telling to reveal what is haunting the quintet, whether it is the grief of losing a child or a lonely old bachelor’s gnawing regret at what could have been with a young flame.

With no interval during the 105-minute running time, I thought I may lose focus.

But in actual fact, I found myself becoming more engaged as the play went on.

Set in rural Ireland, the thick accents and regional idioms were hard to pick up at first, and I found my mind wandering.

But with the arrival of the aforementioned neighbour Valerie and the supernatural turn the plot takes I found each ghost story more compelling than the last.

With no visual gimmicks or sound effects to distract from the delivery, apart from a subtle lighting design, this was all about the acting – and the cast stepped up to the plate.

Particularly compelling was Sean Murray as the belligerent garage owner Jack, who showed a softer side, and Natalie Radmall-Quirke handled her character’s tragic backstory in a way that avoided melodrama.

My main complaint, however, was with the staging. You could tell it was a touring production: it was shoehorned into the back of the circular performance space rather than embracing the Minerva’s unique shape, and black panels appeared to have been taped to the front of the stage where a pub floor should have been.

But other than that, this production is a thought-provoking insight into loneliness and loss.

Until February 3.