English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester present The Weir by Conor McPherson. Winner of the 1997 Olivier Award for Best New Play, Conor McPherson’s chilling, modern classic The Weir embarks on a UK tour this autumn to mark its 20th Anniversary year.
In a small Irish town, the locals exchange stories around the crackling fire of Brendan’s pub to while away the hours one stormy night. As the beer and whisky flows, 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.
A shadowy tale delving into the dark corners of human lives, The Weir is a co-production between English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester.
Director: Adele Thomas; Designer: Madeleine Girling; Lighting Design: Lee Curran, Composition and Sound Design: Richard Hammarton, Casting: Ginny Schiller. Louis Dempsey plays Finbar, Sean Murray plays Jack, John O’Dowd plays Jim, Sam O’Mahony plays Brendan, Natalie Radmall-Quirke plays Valerie.
Our Q&A with Sam O’Mahony who plays the part of Brendan.
Q: Can you tell us about The Weir?
Sam: It’s the 20th Anniversary of Conor McPherson’s brilliant play about a small group of people in a rural Irish pub telling ghost stories through the night. We’re going to be touring until next March, so we’re lucky to have such a great piece to explore over the next few months.
Q: What is at the heart of the story?
Sam: It’s an exploration of loneliness I think and how a sense of community, however fraught, can bring about great truth and catharsis. It’s very moving and very funny. Audiences are responding brilliantly.
Q: Who are you playing and how have you gone about ‘getting into character’?
Sam: I’m playing Brendan, who’s pub they have all ended up in. He’s a man on the precipice of change in his life but in quite a mundane way. We all did a huge amount of backstory work in order to reflect in our performances the detail of McPherson’s script. Together with our director, Adele Thomas, we mapped out every character’s journey up until this point. We had pictures of every character we spoke of so that we’d all be on the same
page, creating a collective memory in a way.
Q: How does your character fit into the storyline?
Sam: Brendan is the facilitator of the evening, the catalyst that allows these characters to exorcise their demons. As such, he’s the only character who hasn’t got a story to tell and I think that’s quite deliberate. He balances the story. He’s the lukewarm water between the fire and ice.
Q: What are your likes and dislikes of touring?
Sam: I’m really enjoying seeing all these towns! And the time we have off around the show is a fantastic opportunity to pursue other artistic projects, which I do. I take a lot of photographs and write. Being away from home is never ideal but ETT really look after us and are sensitive to this aspect of touring. We get back home for 2 nights a week which is a real luxury. And there’s always the gauntlet of what your digs are going to be like; Last week’s landlady told me the room I was staying in was haunted, that 3 women had died there and would I mind helping her sell a tambourine signed by the Specials. So. Swings and roundabouts.
Q: Do you have any specific and/or unusual pre-show routines?
Sam: I tend to avoid superstitions because then I’m bound to them. Sometimes I do a little ‘previous immediate circumstance’ work before I go on which I try and keep it physical rather than mental. But sometimes I just clear my throat, walk on stage and end up doing the best show yet. Just being open and listening helps you survive ’til the curtain call.
Q: Away from the stage what do you like to do to chill out?
Sam: I take a lot of photographs. I got myself a vintage 35mm camera which I’ve been annoying the citizens of most towns we’ve been to with. I like to scare the hell out of myself and photograph people who wouldn’t like to be photographed. So far I’ve made it to each show unscathed. I also write. I’m a filmmaker too so I’m always pursuing the next possible project and developing ideas with my writing partner. I don’t know if any of that is chilling out! I don’t do chilling out particularly well. Sometimes I eat 2 Marks and Spencer desserts within about 3 minutes. The profiterole ones. I’m pretty chilled after that.
Q: Why should everyone get along to see the production?
Sam: This 20th anniversary of The Weir faithfully interprets Conor McPherson’s play with a gorgeous, atmospheric production with some fantastic performances at its centre. Sean Murray as Jack, Louis Dempsey as Finbar, John O’Dowd as Jim and Natalie Radmall-Quirke as Valerie all take it to 11 every night. Adele has crafted a great show from a stunning script. And Audience’s are loving it.
Sam O’Mahony’s theatre credits include Pride and Prejudice and The Mariner (Gate Theatre, Dublin), The Silver Tassie (National Theatre), Oh What A Lovely War (Northern Stage), The Good Soul Of Szechuan (Young Vic), Monged (Belgrade Coventry), King John, Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet (RSC). Television credits include Guilt and X Company.
By Conor McPherson
8 – 16 September at Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Press night: 14 September 7:30pm
And then on tour (dates to be played as of today, as follows)
3 – 7 October 2017
Box Office: 01302 340422
Bristol Old Vic
10 – 14 October 2017
Box Office: 0117 987 7877
Exeter Northcott Theatre
17 – 21 October 2017
Box Office: 01392 726363
Oldham Coliseum Theatre
24 – 28 October 2017
Box Office: 0161 624 2829
7 – 11 November 2017
Box Office: 0844 406 8666
Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
15 – 18 November 2017
Box office: 01484 430528
Yvonne Arnaud Guildford
21 – 25 November 2017
Box office: 01483 440000