Barbara Goulden reviews The Weir at the Criterion Theatre, Coventry
The Weir is the name of their pub as well as the name of the river barrier that traps them, mostly of their own volition, in the place where this small community feels safe.
As the rest of the world leaps up the weir and swims away to spawn in bigger pools, three men take comfort in their familiar, isolated routines, a fourth has managed to move only a short distance away, and all are dazzled by the prospect of a lone woman coming to live in their midst.
Silences, tensions and sobering stories steeped in a local soil that has allowed the myths of ghosts and fairies to flourish, the men each take their turn by the fireside to reveal their personal anecdotes.
But the mystery woman, played with perfect control by Jo Higbee, has stories of her own.
Directed by Richard Warren, this is a wordy play with edge-of-the-seat monologues provided by four of the five-strong cast.
Not surprisingly, there was an occasional need for a prompt at the performance on Monday night. But Pete Bagley, who plays garage owner Jack, is such a seasoned actor that any slight pause is virtually seamless. And Pete is the one to watch as he reflects back on his life and revives his old animosity to Finbar, the one who got away.
Bill Butler has the role of the flashier Finbar, and his scenes with Jack are edgy - anything could happen.
Then there’s Chris Firth as occasional graveyard digger Jim, overcoming his fears around women to hold the audience in the palm of his hand as he tells his story with its unbearable implications. Finally there’s the measured performance of Steve Brown (Brendan) who has less to say but far more to do as he manages the bar, monitors the stories and prepares for the annual invasion of German holidaymakers.
A play that leaves you wondering.
* The play runs until Saturday. Call 024 7667 5175 to book.