Hoy Polloy presents the Victorian premiere of Conor McPherson's Olivier and Tony Award nominated play The Seafarer – A Christmas fable of despair and redemption where a drink is never far away for the five drunks inhabiting this shaky world on a Christmas Eve in Dublin.
Barry Mitchell plays James "Sharky" Harkin, an alcoholic who has recently returned to live with his blind, aging brother, Richard Harkin and tension between the brothers is evident from the start. As Sharky attempts to stay off the bottle during the holidays, he contends with the hard-drinking, irascible Richard and his own haunted conscience.
According to Mitchell, "Sharky” has made all the mistakes and bad decisions. He is unemployed and unemployable. He is divorced, unloved and an alcoholic. He is the punching bag, the butt of the joke and the reason that the other characters are able to feel good about themselves. But he desperately wants to change.
The two brothers are joined by the sinister Mr. Lockhart, Ian Curry and Nicky Giblin who proceed to swallow alcohol like only alcoholics can. Alcohol seems a constant in McPherson's plays (he has struggled with the bottle himself) but it is through this alcoholic haze that something strange, something magical happens – on occasion.
The play is dark, enthralling and funny but overriding all of that is a message of hope. "The play allows us to believe that even in the most desperate of times there is still hope," says Mitchell. " Be it toil, belief or just plain luck that brings you through, you must have hope. I want the audience to leave with hope."
Mitchell came to the project after reading the play earlier in the year, while looking for an audition monologue, and found himself totally drawn in by it so when Wayne Pearn (Artistic Director of Hoy Polloy) contacted him asking If he was interested in the project, Mitchell jumped at the offer. A fortuitous decision for both men who had hitherto never worked together but shared a mutual respect and admiration for one another.
McPherson's style is naturalistic with language that is working class Dublin which can be a challenge in the rehearsal room. "For myself and probably most of the other actors the challenge is the lyric and rhythm of the dialogue," explains Mitchell. " It is so naturalistic that you have to immerse yourself into being Irish. It is so culturally specific. Difficult for people from the other side of the world, but an exciting exercise."
Mitchell is a graduate of the VCA and has been a working actor for over thirty years.
His stage credits include Driving Miss Daisy (Australian tour), Breathing Corpses, The End of Civilization, Four Dogs and a Bone and Human Resources.
Stage Musical credits include Promises Promises, The Boy From Oz, Mame, Call Me Madam, Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Mack and Mabel, Anything Goes, The Music Man, Prodigal Son, A New Brain, Is there Life after High School, Man of La Mancha and the Melbourne Premiere of Hello Again.
Opera performances include the Australian Premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Maynight, Brittens Albert Herring and the tenor solos of Bach’s St Johns Passion.
Television credits include Neighbours, Marshal Law, Good Morning Australia, The Midday Show, and Hey, Hey it’s Saturday.
It is indisputable that McPherson writes a good yarn but, as with all good plays, it's what lies beneath that counts and what lies beneath The Seafarer is a story that is both uplifting and real. "Simply – It's never too late to wake up to yourself," says Mitchell. "In life we make mistakes, there is misfortune and misadventure, but ultimately it is up to the individual to at least try and dig himself out and with the help of those around him survive. Maybe flourish."
July 30 – August 10