Eugene O’Hare’s play ‘The Weatherman’ is sobering, with a powerful message you won’t forget.
The weather. It’s an easy subject to talk about. It fills small talk with awkward colleagues, or the fellow passenger on the bus. Except in Eugene O’Hare’s play, The Weatherman, a different kind of storm is brewing.
It’s easy to ignore the leaflets on child trafficking as you take your seat in the quirky Park Theatre, yet, as The Weatherman unfolds, it soon makes the issue impossible to forget.
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The play is set in a grotty London flat. Its plastic-covered windows, tea-stained coffee table, mismatched seats and taped up carpet is an image we’re all familiar with. Two men, lost souls in their own right, are angry at the world and at what life has done to them. Archie (Alec Newman) is an angry, self-righteous man in his forties who thinks the world owes him a favour. Whereas his flatmate Beezer (Mark Hadfield) is an alcoholic who can’t find his way round the supermarket, hates queues and can forecast the weather for the next day.
The banter between the protagonists is undoubtedly hilarious. The play lulls us back into our seats as voyeurs, laughing at the expense of those on the breadline. Yet suddenly we are jolted in our seats at the mention of a 12-year-old child named Mara (Niamh James) that is being trafficked to London from Romania. At the promise of six months free rent from their dodgy gangster landlord, Dollar (David Schaal), they reluctantly agree to look after her in their one-bed flat. ‘It’s only a few sexy pics and kisses,’ the charming and charismatic Dollar insists, with help from his right hand man, and pervert, Turkey (Cyril Nri).
It’s clear that The Weatherman is about the deterioration of men, and society. It leaves a bitter taste long after it finishes, and has such a strong, sobering message that you don’t want to believe that it’s real and happening right now. Though the play has an obnoxiously abrupt ending, it only leaves you wanting more.
The star of the show was Mara – though actress Niamh James was mute for the entire show, her performance as a non-English speaking, trafficked child was harrowing. As her professional debut performance, it couldn’t have been easy, but James performed the role with dignity and respect.
As a viewer (or in fact, critic), if you find that this show crosses the line, I would urge you to rethink how amazing theatre can be as a platform in raising the status and importance of unfair world issues. It’s refreshing to see O’Hare throw himself and theatre into no-man’s land, to wake the audience up and stir up their priorities.
The Weatherman runs at Park Theatre until 14 September.
Words by Emmie Harrison-West
Also published on Medium.