He knows not, who lives most easily on land ,
How I have spent my winter on ice cold sea,
Wretched and anxious, in the paths of exile
Lacking dear friends, hung round by Icicles
While hail flew past in showers….
Playwright Conor McPherson chose this quote from a 1,200 year old Anglo Saxon poem to preface and inform his contemporary play “The Seafarer” in which four friends gather for a Christmas Eve poker game. The outwardly convivial atmosphere masks the loneliness and anxiety the men all feel as they grow older but no wiser. Richard has recently gone blind and his estranged younger brother “Sharky” has reluctantly come home to take care of him. Nicky and Ivan spend more time in a casual alcoholic haze in pubs than with the wives and children they do care for. When the mysterious Mr Lockhart joins the game he, too, reveals a soul shaping experience of the ice cold depths, for he has come to settle an old debt and play for one of their souls. Faust meets The Christmas Carol in present day Dublin.
Ireland has long been a land where folklore, legend, myth, and reality coexist, where leprechauns and fairies gather in the glens from which St Patrick banished the snakes and the Devil lurks in the shadows of a cobblestoned lane to tempt the unwary. So in this play the Devil and the Banshee are just as concrete as the streets of modern Dublin. You can walk up Suffolk street and down Grafton Street. You can pause for a pint in each of the pubs Nicky describes. You can be chilled by the cold silent moon Lockhart contemplates and you will be warmed by the Christmas sunrise behind Bin Edar.