The Seafarer

Written by Conor McPherson

Tuesday 21st February to Saturday 25th February

Directed by Alice Corrigan

Christmas Eve in Ireland. Sharky has returned home to care for his blind brother, Richard. Life is as it's always been; they drink, they fight and they gamble. But a debt is about to be collected and a card game will be played where more than the week's beer money is in the balance.

This is a play about darkness and light in the most unlikely of places.

The same playwright wrote "The Weir", which was staged by the Bench in 2004.

AuthorConor McPherson

Conor McPherson (b 1971)

McPherson was born in Dublin, the son of a business and accounting teacher. Educated at University College Dublin, McPherson began writing his first plays there as a member of UCD Dramsoc, the college's dramatic society, and went on to found Fly By Night Theatre Company which produced several of his plays. He is considered one of the best contemporary Irish playwrights; his plays have attracted great critical acclaim, and have been performed internationally.

His plays include 'This Lime Tree Bower', 'St. Nicholas', 'The Weir', 'Dublin Carol', 'Port Authority', 'Come on Over', 'Shining City' and 'The Seafarer'. McPherson won the Critics' Circle Award as the most promising playwright in 1998. He has also won Olivier Awards, Evening Standard Awards, George Devine Awards and Critics' Circle Awards for his work. As a writer and director his films include 'Endgame', 'The Actors' and 'The Eclipse'.

PlayThe Seafarer - An Anglo Saxon Poem

He know not,

Who lives most easily on land, how I

Have spent my winter on the ice-cold sea,

Wretched and anxious, in the paths of exile,

Lacking dear friends, hung round by icicles,

While hail flew past in showers

Anonymous. The Seafarer, c.755AD,

translated from Anglo-Saxon by Richard Hamer (1970).

In his introduction to the play, Conor McPherson refers to an old anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem of the 8th century, The Seafarer. The theme of a wandering, damned sailor is a well-known one. Wagner used it in his Flying Dutchman and one of the most beautiful of Schubert's lieder, Der Wanderer, is based on a poem issued from the same source as the Seafarer.

Even though some readers may be surprised by McPherson's vision of Hell, it is not the first time that Hell is depicted as a chilly place instead of the furnace we are more accustomed to.

The poem has been translated many times throughout the centuries. To read Richard Hamer's translation in full, please see:

paet se mon ne wat

be him on foldan

faegrost limpeo,

hu ic earmcearig

iscealdne sae

winter wunade

wraeccan lastum

winemaegum bidroren,

bihongen hrimgicelum;

haegl scurum fleag.

These lines, in the original Anglo-Saxon text, is the passage that Richard Hamer translated above. To see this poem in full in its fascinating original language, alongside an alternative modern translation, please see:

The Bench Production

This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly Havant Arts Centre), East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


SharkyDan Finch
RichardPete Woodward
IvanMark Wakeman
Mr LockhartDavid Penrose
NickyAlan Welton


Director Alice Corrigan
Producer Julie Woods
Stage Managers Helen Young
Lighting Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Operation Derek Callam
Sound Operation Sharman Callam
Set Design Dan Finch
Programme Editor Derek Callam
Set Construction Kevin West

Director's Notes: Stage Pictures and Echoes

I like "stage pictures" and "echoes". These always inform my own personal style of directing.

Peter Corrigan, 2007

My paternal grandfather was a man of legend in my family; there are many stories about him revolving around his quick fists and impressive ability to drink other men under the table. One story goes that the policemen of Bradford wishing to arrest him for failure to make maintenance payments, a weekly occurrence, learned to wait patiently until he had completely finished in the pub before bringing him in. Any other action would result in the policemen being forcibly ejected by Big Jim. Hearing stories of Jimmy Corrigan was like an insight into another world: A masculine world of violence and alcohol. This is the world in which The Seafarer is set and it continues to fascinate me.

These stories were told by my Dad, a man who was born to tell stories, with a voice that was described in the News' review of Conor McPherson's The Weir as "an earthy mixture of bassoon, sandpaper and cigarette smoke". That voice is greatly missed as is his wisdom and vision as a director. I have tried, as much as I can, to live up to his skill. For starters, he always underlined the importance of a good cast and would have approved mightily of the cast I have been lucky enough to assemble for The Seafarer, who have made the rehearsal process a real pleasure for me. They have all taken on board the challenges of the play and responded with an enthusiasm that I could not be more grateful for.

The other important aspect of directing that Dad would advocate was the importance of movement onstage. The director is the outside eye, the one who is able to shape what the actors are doing into a coherent, unified whole. To that end, it is the director's responsibility to create "stage pictures". Not only are the actors' physicalities a storytelling tool but so is the space between them and the dynamics that this creates. The script of a play is so important, and McPherson's is a gift, but what's equally important are all of the things that go into making a theatre performance one that is more alive than a mere recitation of the words.

I hope you enjoy this play as much as I've enjoyed directing it. Thank you for supporting local theatre; it is often forgotten that the word amateur comes from the Latin word for lover and it is truly apt that we are an amateur company as everything we do springs from a deep and abiding love for theatre. My love for theatre came from my parents and this production is dedicated to the two men who inspired it: Big Jim and Peter Corrigan.


The NewsMischa Allen

A murky, dishevelled house with alcohol-fuelled occupants is at the centre of Bench Theatre's production of The Seafarer.

Conor McPherson's plot focuses on Sharky, who comes home to look after his blind brother, Richard, at Christmas. They settle down for a game of poker with some friends and a mysterious stranger, but things quickly turn nasty as the stranger claims Sharky owes him his soul.

Director Alice Corrigan shows her skills don't just lie in acting (as last year's Guide Awards Best Actress).

The set fits beautifully with the dark tale, and little touches are not forgotten.

Peter Woodward leads the show as Richard. It's near on impossible to fault him.

Satanic undertones are captured well and David Penrose's (Mr Lockhart) monologue is incredibly touching and well-played, as he tells Sharky what hell is.

Mark Wakeman's comic timing, as Ivan, brings regular laughs from the audience - from tales of ghosts waiting in car parks for lifts, to falling flat on his face while trying to take off his socks. It's classic slapstick and it gives a welcome lightness to the evening's events.

Mischa Allan, The News, February 2012

Remote GoatJill Lawrie

Affable band of pickled misfits

Bench Theatre's extensive talent pool enables this company successfully and repeatedly to produce a wide-ranging selection of both challenging contemporary and classical pieces alongside light-hearted comedy and pantomime. For the second time this company is showing work from the Irish playwright Conor McPherson who had his own personal struggle with alcohol and who writes of the drinkers shame and self loathing.

Arguably one of his best plays "The Seafarer" is set on Christmas Eve in the shabby living room of a Dublin dwelling, and home to the blind alcoholic Richard Sharkin. Prodigal brother Sharkey has returned home to care for the sightless Richard and the play opens as the house awakens to reveal the hangovers from the night before! Half blind (having misplaced his glasses) Ivan, disorientated from drink stumbles around having failed to return home. Sharkey, alcohol free for 2 days, attempts to tidy up and produce breakfast, while Richard lurches between lovable drunk and violent alcoholic. Before the day is through neighbour Nicky Giblin has arrived and in tow the dark and sinister Mr Lockhart. Tensions run high as Nicky, who is now shacked up with Sharkey's wife and children, and Mr Lockhart, start a game of cards and all the while the drink still flows. The atmosphere turns dark as Lockhart isolates Sharkey and mentally tortures him, unleashing the demons that lurk below the surface. The psychological torture swings between light-hearted comedy but as Christmas morning dawns Ivan recovers his glasses to produce a hilarious twist to the final hand of poker!

Director Alice Corrigan has dedicated this production to her grandfather and father, from whom her love of theatre has sprung. Her late father having taken part in McPherson's "The Weir" back in 2004. Using a suitably cluttered scruffy set which admirably depicts the untidy chaos that is created by the small band of lonely hapless drinkers with their failed marriages teetering on the brink of self destruction. Some wonderful observations from Peter Woodward (Richard) who excels giving a superb performance throughout, deeply convincing as he mimics blind mannerisms and clumsy mobility, while effortlessly changing through strong emotions. Mark Wakeman, a stalwart member of the company, never fails to give an excellent performance and again he did not disappoint, although the accent wavered a bit! Alan Welton impressed taking on the role of Nicky Giblin and the troubled brooding Sharkey was played by Dan Finch who produced a surprisingly strong outburst of temper!

A memorable production of this tale of troubled Irish working class folk, creating an element of comedy from their miserable lives and epic all-night game of poker, although slow initially was warmly received by a near capacity audience.

Production Photographs