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West End Weir is “bolder and brasher”

Published 22 January 2014

Josie Rourke’s West End production of The Weir is “bolder and brasher” than the Donmar Warehouse original claimed the show’s star Ardal O’Hanlon, following press night at the Wyndham’s Theatre.

Rourke’s take on the Irish pub-set tale first opened at the Donmar Warehouse in spring 2013 when theatre lovers eager to see the show queued around the block in an attempt to get tickets for the production.

Since then, playwright Conor McPherson has returned to the Olivier Award-winning play in an attempt to “freshen it up” and keep the cast on their toes.

According to Brian Cox, who plays gloomy garage owner Jack in the show, the Irish writer has “pushed it further” for its three month run at the Wyndham’s Theatre.

The seven months’ respite between the original Donmar production and its current West End tenure has also given director Rourke and her cast the chance to think about the changes they wanted to make to the production and their performances.

Ballykissangel star Dervla Kirwan, who plays the mysterious woman the local drinkers are eager to impress, said: “The beauty of getting a chance to revisit [a play] is that we get a chance to reinvest and forensically examine it again.”

“It’s all about refining, improving and rediscovering,” director Rourke said of her first production to transfer to the West End since beginning her tenure as the Donmar’s Artistic Director in 2012.

The result, according to Cox, is that, “It’s grown, it’s expanded, it’s become a different show.” The Scottish actor, who has become quite a veteran of McPherson’s work having appeared in St Nicholas and Dublin Carol, spoke about the incredible journey he has been on with the production: “This has been an amazing experience. Because we had such a success with it at the Donmar and because it was played in such an incredibly intimate way it had to go to another level [for the West End transfer] and the level it’s gone to is more raw and visceral.”

Part of the production’s success is surely down to the bond between the cast, which, according to Kirwan, has become even “stronger” since its run at the Covent Garden venue. Cox, who saw the premiere production at the Royal Court in 1997, went so far as to say he wouldn’t have embarked on the project without this unique set of performers. “It’s a phenomenal cast,” he told Official London Theatre.

While the cast, which also includes Risteárd Cooper and Peter McDonald, clearly comprise a happy company, there is one particular performance that many of them admire.

“When you watch Dervla, her story changes every time. It’s exactly the same words but she manages to find a new way of telling it every night,” O’Hanlon said. Cox agreed, adding: “She always brings something entirely new to it. It’s quite an achievement.”

Following its opening last night, the production received a shower of four and five star reviews to match those received at the Donmar.

The Evening Standard’s Fiona Mountford described it as “magnificent” and “unmissable”, but star of the show Kirwan has her own comments that are sure to bring audiences flocking to the Wyndham’s Theatre in the coming months. “This is a ticket that is worth its weight in gold. You’ll get a great night out, it’s an hour and 45 and you’re out before rush hour.”

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