The Weein

Red Lemon Productions presents 'The Weein'.

Red Lemon Productions presents 'The Weein'.

Red Lemon Productions presents 'The Weein'.

Red Lemon Productions presents 'The Weein'.

Red Lemon Productions presents 'The Weein'.

Red Lemon Productions presents 'The Weein'.

The Weein will be the last production staged at the Old Museum Arts Centre, which will reopen in its new purpose built space, the MAC, in 2011. Though many of Northern Ireland’s theatre companies could stake their claim on the OMAC’s studio, The Weein seems like a fitting finale since, with its inventive approach to both dramaturgy and performance, it typifies the work that the OMAC has presented and supported over the past twenty years.

Opening with the performers entering through the auditorium, dressed in bloodstained white clothes with whitened faces, cackling and heckling at the audience, the play quickly creates a sinister Bedlam led by the manipulative Susie Ego (Kerri Quinn), who dominates her community of outcasts: Pageant Princess (Caroline Curran), Jackie (Padraig Wallace), and Andamant (Michael Lavery). They were rejected as children by their parents because they were imperfect: Jackie because his mother wanted a girl; Andamant because he has a speech impediment, and Pageant because she is not pretty enough to win a pageant. They have grown up beneath the floorboards, becoming more deformed in body and spirit as time passes. They long for adoption into a loving family and re-entry to the world above, their only chance being the Grand Auction at which they display themselves and their talents in the hope that someone will want them. The Weein – genetically perfect and apparently there by mistake – arrives into this underworld, where she becomes the target of Susie’s murderous hunger for perfection.

The simple and versatile set is a floor of wooden planks and five plastic screens on wheels, painted like floorboards on one side and white on the other. Two of these have spy-holes, evoking the sense of something beneath the floor, swept under the carpet, watching the rest of the world hungrily through the chinks in the wood. The soundscape pre-show and during the intermission recalls the sounds in the womb overlaid with the beep of medical equipment, a reminder that the perfect children in this fictional world are medical creations. The costumes are also suggestive of a hospital – all the characters are dressed in white, with white plimsolls; only the perfect Weein is not smeared with blood or dirt. She, as the dialogue periodically reminds us, is absolute perfection.

The play is written in a mixture of prose and rhyming couplets, an aesthetic choice which evokes Molière and the English Restoration stage, not only in the rhythm of the speech in those sections, but also in the text’s delight in the grotesque, and the horrible denouement. The action is interrupted, and sometimes advanced, by songs. The opening scene is a song that introduces the characters and their situation; there is a song to welcome the Weein which is reprised at the end of the show, but best of all is Pageant Princess’s show-stopping number at the beginning of Act 1, performed by Caroline Curran. This is Pageant’s musical appeal for parents: “The perfect daughter for you-hu-hu / She’s almost as good as new-hu-hu… It’s Pageant Princess!”

While the first act flags at times because the text is verbose and some of the jokes are over-extended, the second act is structured around Pageant’s song and is far more effectively paced. Dressed in her bloodstained white dress with a headless teddy pinned to her waist, a tinsel crown in her tangled blonde hair and her face smeared with dust, the adult Pageant is indeed grotesque. As the Weein says, “nobody will want that.” But Pageant’s passionate belief that someone will, is at first comic and finally tragic. With snippets of her desperate speech and song intercut with the violence that Susie Ego, Jackie, and Andamant are engaged in behind the screens, Pageant inadvertently becomes the MC bravely trying to maintain a semblance of normality.

The performances are good, and there are some nice physical moments like the scene where Padraig Wallace slides the plate of food across the floor to the Weein, and slides himself after it. Overall, it would have been interesting to see O’Reilly bring more of his own background in physical theatre to this production. There is scope to radically edit the dialogue – without sacrificing the rhyming couplets – and to restructure the first act so that the rapid pacing does not obscure so much of the humour in the lines. Nonetheless, The Weein shows Red Lemon as an interesting company producing entertaining and original work.

Lisa Fitzpatrick lectures in Drama at the University of Ulster.

Final performance of The Weein on 4 December at 8pm at the Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick.


  • Review
  • Theatre

The Weein by Patrick J. O’Reilly

24 Nov - 04 Dec, 2009

Produced by Red Lemon Productions
In Old Museum Arts Centre

Directed by Patrick J. O’Reilly

Music composed by Katie Richardson, and produced by Aaron O’Neill

Set Design: Ruth Bothwell and Alan Parrie

Costume Design: Josephine McClelland and Rosie McClelland

With: Caroline Curran, Michael Lavery, Rosie McClelland, Kerri Quinn and Padraig Wallace