The Seafarer – a review
Would you like a piece of toast, Ivan?
I don’t think I’m there quite yet, Sharky.
Connor McPherson’s new play, The Seafarer, is touring the UK. After its run at the Cottesloe Theatre, the National Theatre production was at The Lowry in Manchester and is now playing at Newcastle Theatre Royal, where we caught up with it last night.
This is a potent drama, blackly funny and with powerful dialogue and characterization. We watch Sharkey and his dysfunctional friends as they prepare for Christmas with the help of a few bottles of Irish whiskey and Poteen. But they are joined for a game of poker by a friendly stranger, Mr Lockhart, and suddenly and unexpectedly the atmosphere turns sour as Sharkey begins to wonder if he’ll come out of the game alive. Faced with a dark secret in his past and a Mephistophelian bargain conducted in his youth, it really looks as though Christmas might never arrive.
While admiring the performances and the poetic script I couldn’t help hearing echoes of Pinter, though modulated through the vocabulary of a group of wonderful Irish characters. Chekhov is there as well, and even Dickens in the margins around the Christmas theme.
The main difference between his influences and Conor McPherson is that McPherson doesn’t have as much to say as the others. In this play and in The Weir, he writes solid character and dialogue, but it is as if wrapped around a vacuum. With writing of this quality one expects a deeper moral core.
Still, the cast are excellent, the jokes and the language keep coming in a steady stream and the play leaves one hoping that next time, maybe next time, there’ll be more to get hold of.