THE WEATHERMAN: Park200, Finsbury Park, London
Alec Newman (Archie O'Rourke) and Mark Hadland (Beezer): photo Piers Foley

Eugene O'Hare's The Weatherman, named for one of its characters, is his theatre debut at London's Park Theatre, under the direction of Alice Hamilton. This is one of two of his full length plays to be presented at this exciting venue.

The setting is a dingy London flat (not apartment), squalid and grubby where no money has been invested into its upkeep, a parallel with its inhabitants, Beezer (Mark Hadland) and Archie (Alec Newman). This dysfunctional pair share a tenancy and live out a hopeless existence, surviving on a sparring of words to face each day. Beezer, no stranger to drink and Archie, a troubled soul, are life's failures in the underclass of London's harsh society. They are not in work and have little money. Life is a series of endless queues, rejections and bleakness. As such they are easy prey to the violent control of dodgy gangsta landlord Dollar (David Schaal) who holds power over them and enforces a mystery package, offering no choice but the dangling of six months' rent free accommodation and a weekly pay packet. How can they refuse? So close your eyes - you've got to live, to pay the rent, to pay your bills!

But the package is a 12 year old Romanian girl, (Mara, played by Niamh James), who is being trafficked. Despite their position, both Archie and Beezer have sufficient conscience to know that this is morally abhorrent on any level and Archie, in particular, spirals downwards.

This black comedy with its influences of Beckett and Pinter covers numerous issues including political injustice and divide, corruption, criminality and human trafficking. A lot to ingest and certainly not a recipe for pleasant viewing, but it was O'Hare's intent to expose these and at the very least to arouse debate. Relief comes in the absurd and inappropriate delivery of welcoming gags, albeit non PC, delivered with brilliant, end of the pier comic timing by Hadland. Should we be laughing at all? Even that is of concern but then the entire play questions reactions and this is just another in the long list.

There is little action, and the few moments are vile and unsavoury. The play relies on its script and performance. We are in no doubt that Archie is living his nightmare and that Beezer can exist only through self delusion. Both Hadland and Newman give it their all. Schaal too convinces as a crime boss on the edge of a personal volcano and we sense his explosion. However, because of the nature of the staging and depending on where you sit, you may find yourself (as I did) with Mara's back to you for the whole performance. I can only suggest that she would have appeared vacant in her silent presence, such was the force of her helplessness and despair.

In two Acts, the first runs at a fair pace although there are a few uncomfortable silences. Our interest is upheld and we enjoy the gags. But where was Beezer in Act 2? With extraordinarily lengthy monologues of self revelation and self vindication by Dollar and Archie, his absence was sorely felt, appearing only at the close. Struggling to concentrate on the very wordy passages, we found it hard to empathise whilst acknowledging their situations. Nothing excuses the abduction of another human, in this case a young girl. But then this is an audience who is already committed to decrying those behaviours.

As suggested by Park Theatre, there is an age recommendation of 16+. It is a disturbing play and yes it covers those issues that O'Hare determined to expose but it took a long time to expound (2 hours and 20 minutes) and perhaps might have served better on radio than on stage.

Listings: The Weatherman

Venue: Park200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP
Dates: Running until 14 September 2019
Age Guidance 16+
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes including an interval
Performances: Mon-Sat Evenings 7.30 pm. Thurs & Sat matinees 3 pm.
Captioned performance: 10 September 7.30 pm.
Prices: £18.50 - £32.50; concessions £16.50 - £23.50
Booking www.parktheatre.co.uk or 020 7870 6876 
*10% telephone booking fee capped at £2.50 per ticket