Popular drama The Weir starts tomorrow in Cambridge
This classic piece of theatre, winner of the 1997 Olivier Award for Best New Play, will be on at the Cambridge Arts Theatre as part of a UK tour.
Written by Conor McPherson, the story involves locals exchanging stories around a pub’s fire in a remote Irish town one stormy night.
As the beer and whisky flows, the arrival of a young stranger, haunted by a secret from her past, turns tales of folklore into something more unsettling.
Actor Sean Murray, who plays Jack, said: “I had wanted to be in The Weir for 20 years.
“I went to see the play when it transferred to the West End. I loved it then and would have gladly played any of the male parts, but Jack appealed to me in particular.
“There’s something Peter Pan like about him. The boy that never grew up. I love his bluff and eventual humility.”
Elaborating further on what he loves about the role, Sean added: “Stepping onto that set alone, knowing that I’m soon going to be joined by the most delightful and supportive company one could ever work with, in a piece that is a joy to deliver every single time.
“Even with toothache on a rainy Saturday afternoon on a university campus in Exeter.”
Sean admits that the play presents some difficult challenges for him as an actor. He said: “Now that we’re up and running with the piece and pretty much know what I’m about, I just have to do my level best to make sure that I’m thinking the right thoughts and listening to the others and the music of the piece as though for the time.
“No two performances are the same and we’re constantly playing with ways to keep the performance fresh while staying true to the text.
“It’s a delightful challenge to be part of. There are specific physical challenges. I have to drink at least three pints of liquid over the hour and forty minute duration of the play.
“I am off-stage for only a minute or two during that time, so a trip to the WC is not an option. In spite of years of preparation by drinking more than a couple of pints of beer on a usually daily basis, I often have to suppress the urge to wiggle my legs in the final ten minutes on stage.
“Along with the liquid, due to the copious amounts that I need to drink in one go, I tend to ingest quite a bit of air. That requires a slightly different type of muscle control and can be distracting.
“The herbal cigarettes that we’re obliged to smoke for health and safety reasons catch in my throat more than regular tobacco does. Fortunately, there’s always a drink handy to wet my whistle.”
Why has the play had so much success and critical acclaim? “The Weir is easily accessible,” said Sean. “Its themes are universal and you don’t have to be a seasoned theatre-goer in order to be captivated by the piece. It’s delightful to hear a good story well told.”
He continued: “I think that many of the themes within The Weir will resonate with a contemporary audience. It was only written 20 years ago and most of the themes are timeless and universal: isolation, loneliness, dwindling communities, lack of close relationships and consequential sexual repression, jealousy, revenge, bereavement and death.
“Most of these are present in our lives at some time or other and while The Weir doesn’t try to resolve these, they are ever-present in the subtext and should sear through everything that the characters say.
“The play has other-worldly resonances as well. Supernatural themes that permeate the storytelling and swirl around the evening, like ghosts.”
Sean concluded: “After watching The Weir, I hope that the audience will have been moved to laughter, tears and recognition of themselves and others they have loved and loathed. I was.
“I also wanted to know what the characters would be doing in 10 years’ time. I think the audience might want a drink, having sat watching us knocking it back for the last hour and a half.
“Over that drink, or whatever, they might reflect on loneliness, loss and bereavement – or be wondering about the supernatural. I’ve heard various theories and thoughts from audience members over the past few weeks.”
The Weir will be on at the Arts Theatre from Tuesday, March 6 to Saturday, March 10.
Tickets: £19-£34. All ticket prices include a £3 per-ticket booking fee.
The play starts at 7.45pm each night and there will also be a 2.30pm matinee on the Thursday and the Saturday.