Eugene O’Hare’s debut play, The Weatherman is not for the fainthearted. It’s a disturbing mix of brutality and indifference that casts a harsh floodlight on the sordid underbelly of British society. Its depiction of a hidden world we all know exists, sex trafficking of children in London, leaves us with a burgeoning message – it is our own flabby morality that allows all manner of evil to proliferate in this huge melting pot of a multi-cultural world-class city.
Its opening scene is a confrontation with a claustrophobic lifestyle – a squalid, unaired box of a kitchenette with the feel of an animal trap – an apt meeting place for the criminal underbelly of British society. One of its unfortunate occupants, Archie O’Rourke (Alec Newman), a pensive, edgy character, focuses on his attire, dons a suit jacket, smooths his shirt collar and stares at a tie thrown casually over a rickety chair. When he holds the tie taut in his hands, it hints at an impending violence – strangulation or a hangman’s noose.
The angry O’Rourke carries with him an air of missed opportunities, both in love and in life. His flatmate, Beezer (Mark Hadfield), is a keen observer of human behaviour and a failed meteorologist. He offers weather forecasts and spends most of his time in the local boozer. The men share a bed in their gloomy one-bedroom flat, not because they choose to but because it just happened to be there when they rented the place. It signifies their complacency in simply going along with whatever comes their way in life.
Things might have carried on indefinitely for O’Rourke and Beezer, with each man drifting through and each day blending into the next, except their odious landlord, the menacing Dollar (David Schaal), makes them an offer they can’t refuse. It’s simple, six months free rent and £200 each on top to look after Mara (Niamh James), a 12-year-old Romanian girl – a street beggar referred to as ‘nearly thirteen’ – just until Dollar can get her a spot of work and a family to look after her.
The offer includes the presence of Turkey (Cyril Nri), a seemingly devoted father of two young daughters and handyman who works for Dollar. He’s been hired to transport Mara to and from her daily modelling jobs. Turkey assures O’Rourke and Beezer that it’s ‘nothing rough’ – just pictures and a kiss or two. We begin to think otherwise when Dollar orders Turkey to change the locks on the door, screw the windows tight, put up shutters, and ‘make four sets of keys and never let them out of your sight’. Only the men will have the freedom to enter and leave the flat. It is a chilling depiction of how the 12-year-old Mara will become a sex slave with no chance of escape.
The frail, timid Mara understands no English and is speechless throughout the play. She sleeps on a cot in the corner of the kitchenette – much like a place allocated to an animal – and spends her days with a blanket pulled up over her head until she is summoned to her next ‘modelling’ job.
As if what is happening inside this London flat isn’t enough to turn your stomach, The Weatherman is replete with strong monologues condemning the state of the world, its leaders and the bleak future of its inhabitants. And of course, no political rant is complete without blaming ‘Fucking Thatcher’. It doesn’t always work and, at times, it feels as if the playwright has a need to stamp a conscience on his theatre-going audience, or to use his characters to belch out his own point of view. What saves this near mania for proselytising is Alice Hamilton’s skilful direction and the play’s five gifted actors – although it is only O’Rourke who earns our sympathy and Mara for whom we pray. See The Weatherman for a window into a world you’d never wish to enter. You may cringe in horror but you won’t be bored.
Review by Loretta Monaco
Beezer and O’Rourke live on the fringes of society in a dingy London flat, struggling to make ends meet. Despite living life at the bottom of the heap, the savage banter of their dysfunctional friendship keeps the pair afloat.
When their dodgy landlord, Dollar, makes them a ‘business’ proposition, O’Rourke finds himself selling out for the cost of a few months’ rent. The price? Take care of a mystery special package. Just for a few months. Easy job. Easy money.
As the weight of a heavy conscience becomes too much to bear, the outlook for tomorrow becomes increasingly dark, with a storm brewing on the horizon.
O’Hare’s first black comedy-drama in our 2019 season shines a light on complicity and its intriguing web of secrets and lies woven behind closed doors.
Park Theatre in association with Anthology Theatre, Eilene Davidson Productions and Featuristic Stage present World Premiere of
By Eugene O’Hare
Directed by Alice Hamilton
Cast features Mark Hadfield, Niamh James, Alec Newman, Cyril Nri & David Schaal
Production supported by Park Theatre’s Producers’ Circle
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Booking Period: 15 August – 14 September 2019