REVIEW: MTC Presents THE WEIR

Spectacular veteran cast share a drink

By Christine Young

The Weir takes place at a country pub in the south of Ireland where a handful of locals have taken refuge on a cold, windy night, though there’s no doubt they enjoy a regular tipple regardless of the weather. The stage in the Arts Centre’s Fairfax Studio is aptly decked out as a cosy pub with a bar for gossiping and a hearth for conversations from the heart.

MTC THE WEIR photo Jeff Busby

It’s clearly an important meeting place for local bachelors of a certain age who gather for a bit of ‘craic’ (conversation) which is central to the Irish psyche and way of life. The Weir is true ‘slice of life’ theatre: the audience eavesdrops on a conversation between the publican Brendan and locals Jack and Jim who are soon joined by Finbar and the mysterious newcomer Valerie.

The cast of MTC’s (Melbourne Theatre Company) production is impressive and all are veterans of Australian stage and screen: Nadine Garner (Valerie), Peter Kowitz (Jack), Finbar (Greg Stone), Jim (Robert Menzies) and Brendan (Ian Meadows). You may not recognise all their names but their faces are familiar from recent ABC programs such as Janet King, Doctor Blake Mysteries and The Moodys.

So the casting is excellent, the acting is brilliant, and the setting is just right. But the play itself is slow going and this reviewer found the first half, well, boring. It’s quite possible that I missed the whole point but it seemed to me that the initial conversations and stories were so pedestrian that they weren’t very interesting. Even naturalistic theatre needs some contrived excitement to propel a play’s narrative.

The play only began to pique my interest when Nadine Garner as Valerie delivers a heart-wrenching monologue which becomes the ‘psychological moment’. From this point onwards, the characters begin to speak authentically and drop the bravado.

That said, there are plenty more learned people than me who have given The Weir high praise. The play was Irish playwright Conor Mcpherson’s breakthrough script in 1997-98 and it won several prestigious theatre awards following its premiere season in London.

It’s not my glass of brandy … but it is wonderful to see some of our finest actors treading the boards together.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne
Date: Until 26 September, 2015
Tickets: $49-$119
Booking: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

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