After a highly successful run in the West End, English Touring Theatre is taking Conor McPherson’s play The Weir on tour. The production is set inside a rural Irish pub, and a woman from Dublin has just moved into the area, they learn about her mysterious nature and uncover many truths.
Natalie Radmall-Quirke plays Valerie, the only woman in the play who has moved alone to the country. “She has brought a house in the area and is the subject of much interest from the men that frequent Brendan’s bar and that is where the whole play takes place,” she said. “As it is set in 1997 in Ireland, there is a lot of nostalgia in the play, such as the lack of mobile phones.”
Ultimately it is a show about real human connection, as these people sit and share stories. “There are no set changes or costume changes, and there are no time jumps. The magic of the writing really brings this piece to life,” Natalie explained. “Each character ends up telling a story, people describe them as ghost stories but I think of them as absence stories, and they become successively more revealing, profound and dark.”
Natalie is from Dublin herself, and first saw a performance of The Weir at the Gate Theatre, creating an instant yearning to play the part. “It is such a beautiful part and we are both Dublin women, parts like this don’t come along every day,” Natalie expressed. “She does a lot of listening and she has no intentions about telling anyone about her life this evening, part of the reason she has moved is to escape from a version of herself that she is locked into in Dublin. She is very warm to the men, but can’t help but being enigmatic because she is not saying anything about herself.” The climax of the show is when she tells the men what she is hiding and it turns out to be incredibly shocking.
“There are plays where you have to put elements on yourself, you develop an accent or become a certain class or be historically accurate, but with this play, I think it’s about letting people see you. It is so intimate and requires so much of the audience because they have to go there with you.”
When approaching the play, Natalie emphasised how it is all in the writing, it is so perfect in its structure and all she has to do is get out of its way. “If you try and impose any cleverness on it, it is doomed to failure,” she explained. “Because the set is so naturalistic and the acting is so naturalistic, there is very little that separates us from the audience, because there are no fireworks, just people.” This is enhanced by their fantastic assistant director Katie-Ann McDonough, who Natalie has nothing but immense praise for. “She is so so brilliant,” she said. “We are always working on it and polishing on it because it has to be alive or else nothing is happening. We have to be listening to each other and we keep each other on our toes by being in the moment.
There are plays where you have to put elements on yourself, you develop an accent or become a certain class or be historically accurate, but with this play, I think it’s about letting people see you. It is so intimate and requires so much of the audience because they have to go there with you.”
In today’s society, it is rare for strangers to meet and have a chat that actually goes somewhere, and a real connection is made. The biggest draw in this play is that ability to portray a real human conversation. They drink pints, talk about the weather and make silly jokes, but they also touch on grief, pain and everything else that we battle in life. “In order to just function day-to-day, we can’t stand inside the things we don’t understand for any period of time,” Natalie explained. “These characters stand inside their stories of grief, which is meaningful and quite moving.” Hiding behind these stories and feelings with the distraction of everyday life, the characters really let their guard down throughout the time in which they are on stage.
“The Weir is about human connection,” Natalie said. “Watching people listen to one another and that is what theatre is isn’t it? It is watching people connect and then feeling connected to that, something real happening in the room. I think it is just watching people be and stripping away any mask and any pretence.”
Currently on tour, The Weir opens at The Lowry in Salford on the 23rd of January and tickets can be found here.