A haunted tale is coming to the Bowen Island stage this Halloween season.
Theatre on the Isle (TOTI) has been busy rehearsing a production of The Weir, from Irish playwright Conor McPherson. The tale, which involves several stories of the spirit-world, was written in 1997 and instantly met with rave reviews across Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The Bowen version is directed by Martin Clarke, who is returning to the role for the first time in five years. When TOTI approached him to direct the play, he says the storytelling component was a major draw.
“It’s about how people’s lives change, and how we tell stories. There is an element of supernatural throughout the play,” says Clarke. “It’s also about the rural life of Western Ireland. It’s a play with great depth and understanding – the more we rehearse it, the more seems to want to come out.”
The tale is set in a pub in the rural Irish county of Leitrim. It centres around five characters and the stories they tell – some real, some otherworldly, and some combining a bit of both. With each one the audience learns more about each character, culminating in a final story about a universally shared experience.
“I think when you see what Jack does in the end… the stories can bring out a great deal of people’s stories… compassion or fear or a variety of emotions come out of that,” says Clarke.
‘Jack’ is played by John Parker, one of two relative newcomers to the stage in the five-person cast. “It’s a real good stretch for him, and he’ll do wonderfully well,” says Clarke of Parker. Thomas Newman (‘Jim’) also arrives fairly fresh to theatre-work, but brings a long history of film experience with him.
The cast is rounded out by Island theatre veterans Frazer Elliott (‘Finbar Mack’), Calder Stewart (‘Brendan’), and Kat Stephens (‘Valerie’). Fellow long-time TOTI member Helen Wallwork is serving as stage manager.
Clarke notes that while the stories may involve ghosts and spirits, The Weir shouldn’t be seen as your typical Halloween story. “You talk about ghosts as being the ‘Boooo’ ghosts, but there’s also the ghosts that we live with inside us that come out,” says Clarke. He points out Stephens’ story in particular provokes “such interest and sadness about recent events in her life, and we now see maybe why she’s living here. That completely changes the dynamic in the house.” He adds it also triggers Parker to embark on the play’s final tale.
As for the title of the play, there is symbolism in that too. Like the real-life weir allows for the flow of water across a river, each character’s story in The Weir flows into the next throughout the stormy evening of storytelling.
Opening night for the play is Friday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 pm. There are four additional evening shows Oct. 21, 26, 27, and the finale on Saturday, Oct. 28, all at 7:30 pm. A matinee show runs Sunday, Oct. 22 at 2 pm. Tickets are $25 and available at Phoenix Books. All six shows are being held at Tir-na-nOg theatre.