The Abbey Theatre has initiated a series of post-show discussions on themes emerging from Conor McPherson’s The Weir, which was written in 1997, when Ireland was very different from today. The discussions will focus on the origins of these themes in the play, and broaden out to encompass reflections on their relevance for Ireland in the past and the present. They will take place after the show on 8 and 15 December, and 5 and 12 January.

Changing the Conversation is curated and presented by Catriona Crowe, Curator of First Thought Talks at the Galway International Arts Festival.

The post-show discussions are free to attend with your ticket to the show that evening.

Thursday, 8 December: Death, Grief and the Supernatural 

Many of the characters in the play tell stories of death and loss, and of supernatural occurrences accompanying these events. This discussion examines the place of the supernatural in older Irish societies. Does the supernatural still play a role today, outside the traditional Catholic beliefs which are subsiding? Have we changed our ways of dealing with death over the 25 years since The Weir was written?

Guests will be Professor Angela Bourke, author of The Burning of Bridget Cleary, and Emerita Professor of Irish-Language Studies at University College, Dublin, an expert in oral traditions and customs, and Mary Cunniffe, a Funeral Director with Massey’s in Dublin for 25 years. Book now.

Thursday, 15 December: Loneliness 

In 1997, there were many lonely bachelors in rural Ireland, including those featured in The Weir. What led to this situation? Emigration, family structure, Catholic restraint, land possessiveness? What does loneliness do to people? What can alleviate it? How different is the experience today, in our increasingly digitally connected world?

Guests will be Ireland’s best-known psychologist, author and broadcaster Maureen Gaffney, and Dr Noel Richardson, a national and international expert on men’s health and founder of the National Centre for Men’s Health at the South East Technological University. Book now.

Thurs, 5 January: Courtship 

Courtship is an important issue in the play. In 1997, there was no internet, and no mobile phones or dating apps. How did courtship work then and for decades beforehand?  Does courtship by Tinder succeed any better than the older methods? How do people meet each other these days?

Guests will be social historian Dr Caitríona Clear of NUIG, author of numerous books on women’s social history in 19th and 20th century Ireland, and Róisín Ingle, author of The Daughterhood and two collections of her very popular columns in The Irish Times. She is also co-producer of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast. Book now.

Thursday, 12 January: Land and Housing 

Finbarr is a middle-class businessman with “an eye for the gap”, a situation which can be exploited to his advantage. He deals in property and land, two extremely important commodities in Ireland historically and currently. Why do we still have a terrible housing crisis in Ireland, with young people once again emigrating because they cannot afford to live here? How did we get to this point? What about the older generation which has valuable assets because of ridiculous and unearned increases in the value of their homes, and who do not want to pay inheritance tax on those gains? What about intergenerational solidarity?

Guests include Dr Rory Hearne, lecturer in social policy at Maynooth University and prolific author and broadcaster on our housing issues. His latest book is Gaffs: Why No One Can Get A House, And What We Can Do About It. He will be joined by Professor Michelle Norris, director of the Geary Institute for Public Policy at UCD, and an expert on the history of social housing in Ireland. Book now.