Tell us about how the co-producing partnership between the Sherman Theatre and Tobacco Factory Theatres.
RO: It was an idea developed by myself and the ex-director of Tobacco Factory Theatres, Ali Robertson, we felt that the theatres had much to offer each other in terms of sharing resources and developing ways to share our work more widely. Geographically, it made sense but also there is a shared sensibility between the two theatres; inclusive, energetic and collaborative in spirit.
What were the reasons behind choosing The Weir by Conor McPherson?
RO: When I was Artistic Director for Perth, I directed The Seafarer in partnership with the Lyric in Belfast and just loved working on McPherson’s text. He’s an extraordinarily precise writer; utterly truthful in his connection with human behaviour and I really respond to his work. Also, in the centenary of the Easter rising I wanted to put a great play by an Irish writer on the stage, and a play which, to me, is really about an Ireland in flux. Written in 1997, just before the Celtic tiger kicked off, The Weir is about a liminal place between old and new Ireland. So for this reason too it felt right.
What do you think makes a good ghostly / chilling story? RO: Truth. And vulnerability . That’s what we are all scared of.
Can you tell us a bit about the fairy roads and the importance of folklore in the play?
RO: In Ireland, we are I think, quite used to accepting a kind of duality; while we may be a secular country in the main now, we do have a superstitious quality. I think Irish people, or people who grew up in Ireland, in my generation certainly, grew up around an acceptance of the Other; not necessarily religion, though that’s part of it sometimes. It’s only when you leave that you realise not everyone has it! It’s kind of pagan. Hard to explain. But it’s there.
What challenge(s) are you relishing in directing The Weir?
RO: Same as usual; making the text sing.
Steven Elliott and Orla Fitzgerald
Tell us a bit more about the cast…
RO: They are a really wonderful, hugely talented ensemble with a massive amount of heart. I like working with bold, brave actors. This company is extraordinary.
Orla Fitzgerald and Steven Elliott
Why should audiences be excited about this piece?
RO: Conor McPherson is an extraordinary writer, whose work is layered, complex and brilliantly humane. The Weir is one of the great contemporary plays, which moves between the earthly and the supernatural, between ancient and modern. It is a play steeped in sadness, but which illuminates, too, the power of community, friendship and love. It speaks of hope, in the darkest of hours. McPherson has the rare ability to capture how unpredictable, flawed and strange people really are. It is this which makes him so accessible and exciting.
The Weir, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.
Oct 7 to 22