Delving into dark corners in a chilling modern classic with The Weir at The Minerva

Sean Murray as Jack in The Weir
Sean Murray as Jack in The Weir

Sean Murray auditioned for the very first production of Conor McPherson’s The Weir 20 years ago – and didn’t get the part.

But now he’s relishing every moment of the latest revival… in a different role.

'I was up for the part of Brendan the barman when I first came across the play, and I was about the right age, but didn’t get it. And I didn’t see that first production which, I believe, was Upstairs at the Royal Court.

'But it did very well and transferred to the West End almost immediately, and I did see that production and just fell in love with the play. I thought the production was stunning, just as I had thought the play was stunning when I first read it.

'But when I actually saw it, really it was the part of Jack that I fell in love with, and I remember thinking that one day I would play that part.'

English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester now bring the production to the Minerva Theatre, Chichester.

In a small Irish town, the locals exchange stories round the crackling fire of Brendan’s pub to while away the hours one stormy night. As the beer and whisky flow, the arrival of a young stranger, haunted by a secret from her past, turns the tales of folklore into something more unsettling. One story, however, is more chilling and more real than any of them could have ever imagined.

'The part of Jack is so fascinating. He is a bit of an enigma. He comes across on the surface as being the life and soul of the party. He has got a very quick sharp wit, and he is a very strong character on the face of it, but I love the fact that things are revealed about this man, the revelation that he is this lonely, wounded man that has been haunted for 30 years by the lost love of his life… but you don’t really see that until the end.

'He is a permanent fixture in this pub. He lives just around the corner, and I imagine he goes into this pub every day of his life. The men he meets in the pub are probably the closest people to him. He lives alone. He hasn’t got any children. He has never married. The pub is all he has got…'

And it is into this very isolated Irish world that Aberdeen-born Sean goes.

'I do a very good Irish accent, but I am from Scotland originally, and I don’t know if the director has forgiven me yet! I never told her that I wasn’t Irish. I went into the auditions rolling my r’s. She said "You are obviously not English?" and asked where in Ireland I was from, so I just started talking about my family that had come from Ireland. I just started rambling on and never actually answered her question.

'I got the part and then I went into the first day of rehearsals convinced that she was going to sack me when she found out I wasn’t Irish!'

Fortunately, she didn’t: 'And I am just loving it. We did seven or eight venues before Christmas, and I can honestly say that every single moment has been an absolute joy. This group of actors are so supportive. I step onto the stage at the top of the evening and I am only off stage for one page, for about one and a half minutes, but every single moment of the show has been a complete joy.'​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Minerva Theatre, Chichester

January 30-February 3

cft.org.uk