In a recent propaganda essay I wrote The Weir was the first Irish play THEATREWORKS has ever produced. What was I smoking? As astute readers have pointed out, that is completely untrue. We have produced three plays by George Bernard Shaw: Candida, Pygmalion, and Arms and the Man. GBS was not a man you forget easily, and certainly Irish too.
Another Irishman whose work we've staged is a fellow named Samuel Beckett. Krapp's Last Tape, which featured Bob Pinney eating a banana, and Not I, a 12 minute play about a mouth which won Cathy Matthews a best actress award, are two of my favorite memories. Beckett too had a face which imprints itself indelibily
And finally there is this chap, the one and only Oscar, who wrote a play called The Importance of Being Earnest which you might have seen at THEATREWORKS a few years ago.
Shaw, Beckett and Wilde were all born in or near Dublin. Their Irish pedigree is indisputable. So again, what could I have been thinking when I wrote The Weir was our first Irish play at THEATREWORKS? Could it all be explained by that Loch Lethe bud I lit up for inspiration? Well, maybe.
And yet it's also fair to say there isn't much that is distinctively Irish about the great plays by Irishmen we have produced. They all spent most of their lives out of Ireland. Wilde went to university at Oxford, and lived most of the time in London after that, when not in Paris or touring America. The Importance of Being Earnest is the definitive English drawing room comedy--an Irishman would never be allowed near its premises. Samuel Beckett moved to France and wrote in French. His dramatic characters have been distilled to a bare human and universal essence: we don't think of them as coming with accents or national particularities. George Bernard Shaw left Ireland when he was 20 and never lived there again. The wonderful Shavian characters who have appeared on our stage--Marchbanks, Candida, Sergius, The Petkoffs, Captain Bluntschli, Henry Higgens, Liza DooLitte-- are more English, Swiss or Bulgarian than Irish. The alarmingly prolific Shaw actually only wrote one play with an Irish theme. John Bull's Other Island was a huge hit in 1904,and at a command performance King Edward VII laughed so hard he broke his royal seat. But the play is rarely, if ever, revived.
So perhaps I was not led so far astray by my Shamrock Special Blend when I wrote the Weir was our first Irish play. The young author, Conor McPherson, though not as an arresting a figure as the three Irish giants of modernism, at least looks like an actual Irishman, the sort of fella you'd see having a small one down at the local pub.
What's more, The Weir is of, by and about Ireland from start to finish. All the characters are Irish, and they sound like Irishmen (and woman). By the time the play's 100 minutes are over you will feel that you too are in Ireland, and ready for another pint (which you can have, served from the pub's bar immediately following the performance). It's a magic haunted place for sure, and you will be having a grand time there. The Weir is far from being our first irish play, but it is our first Irish Irish play--and we're thinking, faith and begorrah, it won't be our last!