#Play The Weir
Playwright: Conor McPherson (1971)
Title: The Weir (1997)
Theme: loneliness. Setting: pub in isolated town western Ireland
Trivia: Won Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play 1997.
Trivia: Was voted one of the 100 most significant plays in 20th C
Genre: pastoral play. It gives the reader a slice of rural Irish life.
1. Explain the title. The Weir In what way is it suitable to the story?
a. OLD – The weir is a barrier whose function originally was a fence made of sticks or wattles built across streams or rivers that trap fish. It acts as a sieve.
b. NEW – The weir refers to a local dam built in 1951 to regulate water and generate power. c. The title is suitable as a symbol between the contrasts in the play: old vs modern; world of folklore vs contemporary life; between agricultural tradition vs 20th C modern development.
2. What is the predominant element in the story – plot, theme, character, setting?
Jack: garage owner, 50’s
Brendan: the owner of the pub 30’s (only listens, no story to tell)
Jim: garage assistant, 40’s
Finbar Mack: a local businessman late 40’s
Valerie: a Dublin woman 30.
3. Who is the single main character about whom the story centers?
Jack: is the main character. He undergoes the greatest change.
b. He is the talkative leader of the barflys, ‘old-school’ Irish,
c. devoted to the national beverage of Guinness.
d. Finbar: (foil for Jack) ‘get rich quick’ Irish real estate man, flashy, content to drink
e. the ‘last beer anyone would choose’ bottled Harp.
f. Valerie: incomer; city folk, drinks white wine; Brendan is flustered….Wine?
g. He finally finds a bottle he received as a gift.
h. When pouring her glass he fills it up as he would a pint.
4. How does the story get started?
The play opens on a stormy night in Brendan’s pub.
b. A rural Irish pub is located in an isolated town in County Leitrim.
c. Brendan, the owner of the pub, opens the bar, fills the till and checks the beer taps.
d. Jack and Jim (his regulars) are gathering for their daily pint.
5. Briefly describe the rising action of the story.
The action in the play is very subtle. The arrival of a stranger from Dublin city, a beautiful woman (Valerie). She has just rented an old house in the area.
The barflys want to impress her or perhaps scare her off (?) …with eerie stories about souls past, spirits present, ghosts and …half-haunted encounters. It is an authentic night drinking with locals who have the gift of blarney.
6. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
a. 4: Valerie’s true story…(read the play and discover this for yourself!)
7. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
After Valerie’s story the mood changes.
Jack’s talk with Brendan and Valerie is the last…..it is a confession.
McPherson bookends the play.
Brendan closes the bar.
- This was my first one-act play.
- It should be tightly compressed, short,
- …with playing time max forty-five minutes.
- A single setting (pub) should be a ‘pressure-cooker play’.
- The energy should build up, ready to blow off the pan’s cover.
- This play is ninety minutes long on stage.
- The play felt like it was quietly simmering on the back-burner.
a. Weak point….but not really!
- No real conflict. But I’ve learned that play writing is NOT all about conflict.
- The power of the play derives from the
- power of argument in the dialogue.
- The story about transition….people realize that their
- beloved village, rural life is becoming the thing of the past.
b. Weak point…but not really!
- I was looking for the ‘lilt of Irish humor, the
- …capacity to make rapid and irresistible remarks.
- In this play I only chuckled twice:
- at the beginning (defect beer tap) and
- at the end (who are the Germans, really?)
- Perhaps McPherson choses to embed the humor in gestures
- …..intonation of the voice that is impossible to relate to while reading a play.
c. Weak point….really!
- The play contains 3 ghost stories barflys tell each other
- …that were not scary.
- This play does not come to life on paper.
- It….MUST have actors to relate the emotions in the dialogue.
- I read the play twice before making a conclusion.
- I want to see if I missed something
- The only way to really enjoy the play is to see a stage performance.
- Playwright’s task is to create stories that generate emotional responses.
- The rhythm of the language is as important as the words themselves.
- Conor McPherson uses the smallness of a tiny Irish village
- …in the service of bigness.
- He illustrates the difference between fading rural life
- …and the encroaching urban lifestyle.