PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Ciarán Hinds
By Robert Simonson
December 4, 2007
Spoiler alert! All readers who don't like even the smallest plot point in a play revealed before they have attended the production, take heed: this interview reveals the central plot point of Conor McPherson's new Broadway play, The Seafarer.
I'm sorry, but there was absolutely no way to interview Ciarán Hinds, one of the staging's stars, without discussing the nature of the character he's playing. He portrays the Devil, after all (though he goes by the pseudonym of Mr. Lockhart) — Satan, the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer. To not ask him how he goes about impersonating such a monster would be like interviewing the lion tamer without uttering the "L" word. Hinds is making only he second Broadway appearance with this play (the first was Patrick Marber's Closer) and his first stage appearance in six years. Playbill.com asks the Irish actor what it was like to drink, play cards and be evil incarnate all at the same time.
Playbill.com: This Conor McPherson play seems like a departure for the playwright. There's a lot of dialogue, as opposed to his signature monologues.
Ciarán Hinds: There is, and there are times when it goes like wildfire. We all have to get a hand on it. The second half of the play's all based around poker and we're all playing proper poker through three different hands, which is quite a complicated business stagewise, to make sure that everybody is on the ball with the game while continuing the drama.
Playbill.com: It gives a new meaning to ensemble playing, doesn't it?
CH: Yes. The way Conor writes is so precise, and sometime it doesn't seem to follow one's inherent logic, but there is a logic through it. Between the five of us, we're working away.
Playbill.com: Also, all of the characters are, at one point or other, drunk. Is it hard to play your character and play drunk?
CH: When Sharky [the show's tortured protagonist, played by David Morse] starts on the drinking, it's purposeful. The rest of them of regular, professional drinkers. Every day. It's very hard to gauge, but Conor keeps an eye on us.
Playbill.com: You didn't do Seafarer in London. How did you get involved with the play's New York production?
Ciaran Hinds: What happened is a coincidence. I'm sort of living half in Paris and I hadn't been to London for a while. But I had a friend who managed to get two tickets for The Seafarer. And he said, "If you happen to come over, come over around this time and I'll treat you for your birthday." As fate would have it, I managed to get over and we went to see it. I was marvelously entertained and stimulated. That's all I knew about it. Then about four weeks later I got a call saying they were going to move to New York and would I be interested in playing Mr. Lockhart? I hadn't been on stage for six years. It was about time.
Playbill.com: You play what could be argued as the trickiest role. You're not exactly human and the part is weighted with symbolism. I guess it might be an actor's dream to play the Devil, but how do you play it without being a cliché?
CH: Yes. Conor wants to make him very human, yet he's not of the earth. It also could be interpreted as part of Sharky's psyche working on him, because of the terrible, crap life he's led. Is it self-inflicted? It's complex. Yet, throughout the evening, through his own personal story, my character has complications and issues of his own that he needs to resolve. In the end, he is the fallen angel. He was once the most favored. His task is to try to understand if there is redemption for people; if he's consigned to be the one who's never redeemed. And also, there's the idea that God concocted this human race, which Mr. Lockhart looks down on like insects.
Playbill.com: And he sees them also as competition for God's love.
CH: Something that he will never have, which is the redemptive force of love.
Playbill.com: What do you make of the fact that a key turning point in the plot comes not from Lockhart or Sharky, but the hapless marginal character of Ivan?
CH: There again is the idea of a form of redemption through an acceptance of a friendship. It's very strange. Ivan's a kind of floating character. Early on — it goes very quickly — when Ivan comes in [after sleeping over at Sharkey's house] and he's hungover and he sees Sharkey and says "Do you mind if I…" and Sharkey says, "You don't have to ask me." The idea is, "You're at your home, you're almost family." Through that, through an almost communal, shared experience, Sharky is saved.