McPherson's masterful return to form

The characters in Tony award-winning play The Seafarer are familiar ones; the ones who wait for early houses to open, who cradle a pint in solitude, who avoid the missus, avoid reality and lament opportunities lost. So when the desolate loneliness and drunken companionship of four men is shared over a card game with the devil on Christmas Eve, a story unfolds of chances given and chances taken.  Each has a skeleton in their closet, and each character holds that story, like their cards: close.


The excellent acting does justice to McPherson's masterful characterisation. The audience is drawn into the characters' worlds, which have a credibility that stems from McPherson's own experiences with alcoholism.

Liam Carney plays Sharky, a jack of all trades but master of none – a sombre and somewhat defeated character. Sharky cares for Richard, his recently blinded, bossy and cantankerous brother (played outstandingly by Maeliosa Stafford). Richard delivers wonderful outbursts throughout the play and though he calls Sharky an “awful useless eejit”, there is a great fondness between the brothers that emerges toward the end of the play.  

Don Wycherly gives an excellent performance as the fragile alcoholic, Ivan, an entertaining but unfortunate storyteller, who is afraid to go home for Christmas and face the wrath of his wife. The tension and desperation surrounding Ivan's early morning cures is masterfully offset by passages of lively language and humour.

Seafarer The mood is changed when Mr Lockhart (George Costigan) is brought to the house by Nicky (Phelim Drew), the man who stole Sharky's ex-girlfriend and whom Sharky must now entertain. Nicky has given up his babysitting business to become a cheesemonger and Phelim is well cast as this somewhat ditsy character (“I'm thinking, I'm thinking”).

As the story takes a sinister twist, Lockhart brings a malevolent force to the drunken scene, and a card game begins that could determine the fate of Sharky's soul and awaken demons in some of the other characters.

Following its success in America and England, The Seafarer plays in different venues throughout Ireland in June.

‘The  Seafarer' by Conor McPherson
The Abbey until 7 June
Galway 10-14 June
Cork Opera House 17-21 June
An Grianan, Letterkenny 24-28 June