Thursday night saw the opening of The Seafarer at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Of the whole season brochure, this was the production I had picked out as the one I most wanted to see. Co-produced by Perth Theatre and Lyric Belfast, the production is directed by Rachel O'Riordan and is both a Scottish and Northern Irish Premiere.
Gary McCann's set is beautifully intricate, every shabby detail carefully placed to give the overall effect of a deteriorated, ramshackle hovel. The setting reflects the characters' own battered lives, filled with difficult memories, troublesome relationships, gambling and alcoholism. The actors all portray very different characters, which both compliment and repel each other. Richard, the older brother played by Ciaran McIntyre, is a domineering old man, easily aggravated and wily. His younger brother Sharky, played by Louis Dempsey is trying to dry out, and while staying with Richard has become his skivvy. The dynamic between these characters is both tender and tense with Richard and Sharky highly frustrated with each other at various points. Ivan is an old friend of the brothers, a seemingly simple man, with a friendly nature, despite his alcoholism. In a particularly strong cast, it is Sean O'Callaghan as Ivan who shines as this endearing rogue.
Kevin Treacey's lighting is perfectly rendered as the bright daylight fades naturally and night comes in. When Lockhart's intentions become obvious, his threatening behaviour towards Sharky is highlighted by the ominous, shadowy and forbidding lighting. It makes for a subtle lighting design, with a big part to play in the audience perception that something very very bad has come to this particular Christmas card game.
Despite a story which deals with supremely difficult themes, there are many laughs to be had. From Ivan's spectacular fall in the kitchen, to Nicky's sunglasses and Richard's treatment of Sharky, this story is optimistic and life affirming rather than hopeless and despairing. Much credit to director Rachel O'Riordan who has coaxed out of these five gifted actors fine performances which are instinctively natural. She ensures Conor McPherson's script is brought to lustrous life in all it's understated but dramatic splendor.
The Seafarer continues at the Lyric Theatre until 23rd March. Click to book here.