The preoccupation with demons in contemporary Irish theatre continues.
Last year, the Abbey Theatre’s production of Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus led us on a supernatural jaunt around Dublin with the devil’s work much in evidence.
Now comes Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, devilishly brought to life by the Sydney-based O’Punksky’s Theatre Group at the intimate Darlinghurst Theatre.
This chilling but frequently hilarious play, first produced in 2006, is inspired by the Irish folk tale of the Hellfire Club.
As the myth goes, some 18th century aristocrats in Wicklow are playing cards one stormy night when they are joined by a mysterious stranger. When one of the players drops a card and bends to pick it up, he notices that the stranger has cloven hoofs instead of feet. The devil has come to call.
McPherson takes the spirit of this story and repositions it into a modern, urban, working-class Dublin setting.
It’s Christmas Eve and Sharky (Patrick Dickson) has returned to Dublin to look after his irascible, aging brother Richard (Maeliosa Stafford) who’s recently gone blind.
Old drinking buddies Ivan (Patrick Connolly) and Nicky (John O’Hare) are holed up at the house too, hoping to play some cards. But with the arrival of a stranger (William Zappa) from the distant past, the stakes are raised ever higher. In fact, Sharky may be playing for his very soul.
All of the performers revel in their roles but Connolly’s Ivan and Stafford’s Richard are particularly well observed.
Zappa makes a suitably scary Mr Lockhart.
This is but the latest fine production from the O’Punksky’s ensemble, formed in 1990 in Sydney.
Previous productions include Tom Murphy’s The Gigli Concert, Brian Friel’s Faith Healer and Frank McGuinness’s Observe The Sons Of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme.
Seafarer fits this talented ensemble like a glove not least because Galway-man Maeliosa Stafford, who also directs, previously played the role of Richard in the Abbey in Dublin.
His intimate knowledge of the play adds an extra layer of quality to this production.
We have been spoiled with Irish stage treats in Australia in recent years (Terminus and Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce to name but two) and Seafarer only adds to our indulgence.
Meticulously staged and thoughtfully acted, The Seafarer is a must-see for fans of Irish theatre in Sydney.
Written by Conor McPherson
Directed by Maeliosa Stafford
Until August 12