Conor McPherson

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Plays by Conor McPherson

The Birds

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's The Birds is a loose adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1952 short story. It was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 29 September 2009.

Mysterious flocks of birds have begun to attack at high tide, driving strangers Nat and Diane to take refuge in an isolated, abandoned house by the sea. They quickly form a bond as they attempt to survive in their new circumstances. But with no electricity and a scarcity of food, the tension is palpable and hope is waning. The sudden arrival of a mysterious young woman, Julia, ruffles feathers in the house and quickly threatens to destroy their so-called sanctuary.

The Gate Theatre premiere was directed by Conor McPherson and designed by Rae Smith, with Ciarán Hinds as Nat, Sinead Cusack as Diane, Denise Gough as Julia and Owen Roe as Tierney.

The play received its American premiere at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis on 25 February 2012. The production was directed by Henry Wishcamper with J.C. Cutler as Nat, Summer Hagen as Julia, Angela Timberman as Diane and Stephen Yoakam as Tierney.

Come On Over

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Come On Over is a short play for two characters that was first performed at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 27 September 2001.

Matthew, a Jesuit priest sent to investigate a ‘miracle’ in his hometown, re-encounters Margaret, the woman who loved him thirty years before.

The Gate Theatre premiere was directed by Conor McPherson with Jim Norton as Matthew and Dearbhla Molloy as Margaret.

The Dance of Death (McPherson)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's adaptation of August Strindberg’s 1900 play The Dance of Death, about a titanic battle of wills between a husband and wife, was first performed at the Trafalgar Studios, London, on 13 December 2012.

On an isolated island, military captain Edgar and his wife Alice live a bitter life, their marriage soured by hatred. When the possibility of redemption and escape arrives for Alice in the shape of their former comrade Kurt, it seems that Edgar is prepared to use his very last breath to make their lives a living hell.

The premiere at Trafalgar Studios was part of the Donmar Trafalgar season designed to showcase the work of graduates from the theatre’s Resident Assistant Director scheme. The production was directed by Titus Halder and designed by Richard Kent, with Indira Varma as Alice, Kevin R. McNally as the Captain (Edgar) and Daniel Lapaine as Kurt.

The play was first performed in the US at Writers Theatre, Glencoe, Chicago, on 1 April 2014 in a production directed by Henry Wishcamper.

Dublin Carol

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol is a play about an ageing alcoholic who is forced to confront the failures of his past. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London, on 7 January 2000.

It’s Christmas Eve and Dublin undertaker John Plunkett is sharing memories of funerals over the years and dispensing advice to his young assistant, Mark. But the arrival of his estranged grown-up daughter, Mary, shows him the time has come to face up to his own disastrous past in order to overcome his fear of the future.

The Royal Court premiere was the first production in the newly rebuilt theatre on Sloane Square. It was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Rae Smith, with Brian Cox as John, Andrew Scott as Mark and Bronagh Gallagher as Mary.

The play was produced in Chicago by Steppenwolf Theatre Company in November 2008 in a production directed by Amy Morton.

It was revived by the Donmar Warehouse in their West End season at the Trafalgar Studios in December 2011, in a production directed by Abbey Wright.

The Good Thief

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's The Good Thief is a monologue play that recounts the misfortunes of an unnamed petty criminal whose conscience punishes him when he becomes involved in a bungled kidnap.

The play was first performed under the title The Light of Jesus by Fly By Night Theatre Company at the City Arts Centre, Dublin, on 18 April 1994. It was directed by Conor McPherson and performed by Kevin Hely.

The Good Thief was subsequently performed as a Loopline production, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival on 4 October 1994. It was performed by Garrett Keogh and directed by Conor McPherson.

The play was awarded the Stewart Parker Award, an annual award for the best Irish debut play.

The Nest

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

The Nest is a translation by Conor McPherson of Franz Xaver Kroetz's 1975 play, Das Nest, about a young couple expecting a baby, and the moral and environmental cost of their materialistic nesting instincts. The Nest was first performed at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, on 1 October 2016, before transferring to the Young Vic, London, on 28 October, in a co-production by the Lyric and the Young Vic.

The play opens in a flat belonging to parents-to-be, Kurt and Martha. Kurt spends long, arduous days working as a lorry-driver, while the heavily pregnant Martha puts in extra hours for a market research company so that they can afford all the new things they need for their baby. When Kurt’s boss offers him a chance to make some easy money with a mysterious side job, he rashly accepts, only to discover too late that he has caused an environmental catastrophe – one that has deeply personal consequences for Kurt and his new-born son.

The premiere production was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Alyson Cummins, with an original score composed by PJ Harvey. The cast was Caoilfhionn Dunne as Martha and Laurence Kinlan as Kurt.

The Night Alive

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's The Night Alive is a play about the small lives of a group of down-and-outers in Dublin. It was first performed at the Donmar Warehouse, London, on 19 June 2013 (previews from 13 June).

Tommy, a middle-aged loner separated from his wife and children, is renting a run-down room in his uncle Maurice’s house in Dublin. He scrapes a living doing odd jobs with his pal Doc. But Tommy's life is overturned when he takes in Aimee, a bloodied, beaten-up young woman he found being battered by Kenneth, her apparent boyfriend. Together there’s a glimmer of hope they could make something more of their lives.

The Donmar Warehouse premiere was directed by Conor McPherson and designed by Soutra Gilmour, with Ciarán Hinds as Tommy, Michael McElhatton as Doc, Caoilfhionn Dunne as Aimee, Brian Gleeson as Kenneth and Jim Norton as Maurice. The production immediately followed Josie Rourke’s acclaimed revival of McPherson’s earlier hit play, The Weir, at the same venue.

The production subsequently transferred to the Linda Gross Theater in New York, presented by the Atlantic Theater Company, where it opened in December 2013. Ben Brantley, the influential theatre critic at the New York Times, declared the play 'extraordinary... [McPherson] has a singular gift for making the ordinary glow with an extra dimension'. The Night Alive went on to win the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play, 2014.

Port Authority

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's Port Authority is a play about big dreams and lost opportunities, told through three interweaving monologues. It was first performed in a production by the Gate Theatre, Dublin, at the New Ambassadors Theatre, London, on 22 February 2001.

A young man, Kevin, moves out of his parents' home for the first time, living with friends and falling in love with a young woman he's afraid to pursue. Dermot, in his thirties, is bound for Los Angeles and a glamorous new job for which he's far from qualified. Joe, a pensioner, lives in a care home where meals are the big event – until he receives a mysterious package from a long-ago neighbour. The characters' stories are linked in small, teasing references, but also through deeper symmetries concerning fate, life chances, missed opportunities and the ineffability of the everyday.

The play's premiere was directed by Conor McPherson with Éanna MacLiam as Kevin, Stephen Brennan as Dermot and Jim Norton as Joe. It was praised by the critics, with Susannah Clapp in The Observer declaring 'His sentences are better, his sentiments more developed than many Booker Prize-winners. He is terrific'. The production subsequently transferred to the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 24 April 2001.

The play was staged by the Atlantic Theater Company in New York from 21 May 2008, directed by Henry Wishcamper, with Brian d'Arcy James, John Gallagher Jr and Jim Norton.

Rum and Vodka

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's short monologue play Rum and Vodka was first performed at University College Dublin on 27 November1992. One of McPherson's earliest stage works, it was written and performed just after he formed Fly By Night Theatre Company with fellow students, who produced the majority of his early plays.

A young, unnamed Irishman with a drink problem recounts the events of three momentous days in his life when his drab nine-to-five existence is obliterated in an escapist binge, which threatens to engulf him.

The University College premiere was performed by Stephen Walshe and directed by Conor McPherson.

The play was subsequently performed by Fly by Night Theatre Company at the City Arts Centre, Dublin, on 30 August 1994. The performer was Jason Byrne, directed by Colin O'Connor.

The Seafarer

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Conor McPherson's The Seafarer is a play about a group of drinking buddies whose extended Christmas Eve card game is played for the highest stakes possible. It was first performed at the National Theatre, London, in the Cottesloe auditorium, on 28 September 2006 (previews from 20 September) - the first of McPherson's plays to be staged at the National Theatre.

It’s Christmas Eve and James 'Sharky' Harkin, an erstwhile fisherman/van driver/chauffeur now in his fifties, has returned to Dublin to look after his ageing, irascible brother, Richard, who’s recently gone blind. Two old drinking buddies, Ivan and Nicky, are also holed up at the house, hoping to play some cards. But with the arrival of Mr Lockhart, an acquaintance of Nicky's, the stakes are raised ever higher. In fact, Sharky may be playing for his very soul.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by McPherson and designed by Rae Smith, with Ron Cook as Mr Lockhart, Conleth Hill as Ivan, Karl Johnson as Sharky, Michael McElhatton as Nicky and Jim Norton as Richard.

The play received its American premiere at the Booth Theater, New York, on 31 October 2007, with the same artistic team. The cast was as follows: Conleth Hill as Ivan, Ciarán Hinds as Mr Lockhart, Sean Mahon as Nicky, David Morse as Sharky and Jim Norton as Richard.

Picture of Conor McPherson

Conor McPherson was born in Dublin in 1971. He made his name with a series of monologue-based plays before his breakthrough came with The Weir, which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1997. The play transferred to the West End the following year and onto Broadway the year after that, winning McPherson the Olivier for Best New Play alongside the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and George Devine Awards. The play was revived for a sell-out run at the Donmar Warehouse in 2013, followed by another production in London’s West End in 2014.

His other plays include Rum and Vodka (Fly By Night Theatre Co., Dublin, 1992); The Good Thief (Dublin Theatre Festival, 1994; Stewart Parker Award); This Lime Tree Bower (Fly By Night Theatre Co. and Bush Theatre, London, 1996; Meyer-Whitworth Award); St Nicholas (Bush Theatre and Primary Stages, New York, 1997); Dublin Carol (Royal Court, 2000 and Atlantic Theater, New York, 2003); Port Authority (Ambassadors Theatre, West End, Gate Theatre, Dublin, 2001 and Atlantic Theater, New York, 2008); Shining City (Royal Court, Gate Theatre, Dublin, 2004 and Manhattan Theatre Club, New York, 2006; Tony Award nomination for Best Play); The Seafarer (National Theatre, London, 2006, Booth Theater, New York, 2007 and Abbey Theatre, Dublin, 2008; Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard and Tony Award nominations for Best Play); The Veil (National Theatre, 2011) and The Night Alive (Donmar Warehouse and Atlantic Theater, New York, 2013). Theatre adaptations include The Birds (Gate Theatre, Dublin, 2009 and Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, 2012) and August Strindberg’s The Dance of Death (Donmar at the Trafalgar Studios, 2012).

Work for cinema includes I Went Down, Saltwater, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, The Actors, and The Eclipse. He also adapted Elegy for April for the BBC and Quirke with Andrew Davies for RTÉ and the BBC, both adapted from the work of John Banville. Awards for his screenwriting include three Best Screenplay Awards from the Irish Film and Television Academy; Spanish Cinema Writers Circle Best Screenplay Award; the CICAE Award for Best Film Berlin Film Festival; Jury Prize San Sebastian Film Festival; and the Méliès d’Argent Award for Best European Film.