The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
The Seafarer is the booze-soaked new play opening on Broadway by Irish playwright Conor McPherson. CAHIR O'DOHERTY speaks to one of its stars, Conleth Hill.
THE devil, they say, is in the details. But he's also to be found in the demon drink, in lack of love, and most especially in hopelessness.
In Conor McPherson's new play The Seafarer, which is now in previews at the Booth Theatre on Broadway, those last three ingredients set the stage for a visit from a man who may be the devil himself.
Unexpectedly joining four aging lads in their run down basement kip in the Baldoyle suburb of Dublin one Christmas Eve is a smooth-tongued guest who seems to know everything about them. The question is - is he a friend or a foe?
In each of his plays to date McPherson's characters have wrestled with their own inner demons, most of them all too recognizable, the familiar
hobgoblins of a certain brand of melancholy
Irish manhood. The Seafarer, McPherson's latest Broadway gambit, is set in a flat that looks as stark and cheerless as the inner lives of each of these men, but this on the surface supernatural tale is really all about the difficulty of real life connections for insular and uncommunicative men like this.
During an interview with the Irish Voice, one of the show's stars, Irish actor Conleth Hill, spoke about the challenges and rewards of bringing the new play to Broadway from its recent production at the National Theatre in London.
"I think The Seafarer's message is that there's always hope even in the most seemingly down and out situation," Hill feels.
"There's a light at the end of the tunnel even for four or five losers like this to come away with something that's pretty amazing. I mean, even lads like this can stave off the devil - and most of them do it without even knowing it. And I think that it's the love of life, as bad as it is, and the refusal to give up that make all the difference."
It's fair to say that in The Seafarer at least three of the men are hardened alcoholics. They're not glamorizing drink or pretending it's all a good laugh either. They use it to medicate themselves, and to stave off even worse fears.
"I think they drink to numb themselves from the feelings, to hold off reality for any number of reasons. They can't deal with life as it is and so the drink is their crutch definitely, yeah," says Hill.
The Broadway cast is not the same as the London production. New members joining the New York show are David Morse (most well known for his recurring role on St. Elsewhere), Ciaran Hinds (most recently seen in HBO's Rome) and emerging star Shaun Mahon. Each of the actors is Irish except for Morse, but the cast has voted him an honorary Irishman, agreeing to call him David MacMorse in tribute.
"This is my first McPherson play and Irish actor Jim Norton's to blame for my being cast in it," says Hill.
"We were working together on a show called Shoot the Crow in London and Jim mentioned it. Jim has done many successful collaborations with Conor, and he talked a lot about The Seafarer to me, adding that there were five great parts in it. I read it and I thought, well, I'm far too young and well balanced to play any of those characters, but I met Conor then and that clinched it."
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