Conor McPherson
Born (1971-08-06) 6 August 1971 (age 52)
Occupation(s)Playwright, screenwriter, director

Conor McPherson (born 6 August 1971) is an Irish playwright, screenwriter and director of stage and film. In recognition of his contribution to world theatre, McPherson was awarded a honorary doctorate of literature in June 2013 by the University College Dublin.[1]

Early life

McPherson was born in Dublin.[2] He was educated at University College Dublin and 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 good reviews, and have been performed internationally (notably in the West End and on Broadway).


The Weir opened at the Royal Court before transferring to the West End and Broadway. It won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play for 1999.

In the same year he was one of the recipients of the V Europe Prize Theatrical Realities awarded to the Royal Court Theatre[3] (with Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Jez Butterworth, Martin McDonagh).[4]

His 2001 play, Port Authority tells of three interwoven lives. The play was first produced by the Gate Theatre of Dublin but premiered at the New Ambassadors Theatre in London in February 2001, before moving to the Gate Theatre in April of that year. The production was directed by McPherson himself. New York's Atlantic Theater Company staged a production of the play in spring of 2008, starring Brian d'Arcy James, and Tony Award winners John Gallagher Jr. and Jim Norton. The New York Times critic Ben Brantley said, "I found myself holding on to what these actors had to say as if I were a five-year-old at bedtime being introduced to The Arabian Nights."

McPherson also directed his play, Dublin Carol, at the Atlantic Theater Company, New York, in 2003.

His 2004 play Shining City opened at the Royal Court and prompted The Daily Telegraph to describe him as "the finest dramatist of his generation".[5] A meditation on regret, guilt and confusion, the play is set entirely within the Dublin offices of a psychiatrist who himself has psychological secrets. Whilst much of the play takes the form of monologues delivered by a patient, the everyday stories and subtle poignancy and humour make it a riveting experience. It subsequently opened on Broadway in 2006 and was nominated for two Tony Awards, including Best Play.

In September 2006, to great critical acclaim, McPherson made his National Theatre debut as both author and director with The Seafarer at the Cottesloe auditorium, starring Karl Johnson and Jim Norton, with Ron Cook as their poker-playing, Mephistophelean guest. Norton won an Olivier Award for his performance while McPherson was nominated for both the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play. In October 2007 The Seafarer opened on Broadway, keeping with it most of its creative team, including McPherson as director and both Jim Norton and Conleth Hill in their respective roles, with David Morse taking over as Sharky, and Ciarán Hinds portraying Mr. Lockhart. The production on Broadway received some positive reviews including such statements as "McPherson is quite possibly the finest playwright of his generation"[6] from Ben Brantley at The New York Times and "Succinct, startling and eerie, and the funniest McPherson play to date"[7] from The Observer. Norton's performance as Richard Harkin in The Seafarer at the National Theatre won the 2007 Best Supporting Actor Laurence Olivier Award, and he won a Tony Award in 2008 for Best Featured Actor in a play.

McPherson wrote and directed a stage adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's story The Birds, which opened in September 2009 at the Gate Theatre in Dublin.

In 2011 the National Theatre London premiered his play The Veil at the Lyttleton. Described by The Times as "a cracking fireside tale of haunting and decay"[8] it is set in 1822 and marked McPherson's first foray into period drama. This vein continued with a striking new translation of August Strindberg's The Dance of Death premiered at the Trafalgar Studios in London at the end of 2012. His version was described as "a profoundly seminal work" by The Guardian which also managed, The Times said, to be "Shockingly funny".[9]

The Donmar Warehouse mounted a season of McPherson's work in 2013 with a revival of The Weir and the world premiere of The Night Alive. The Weir was hailed once again as "A modern classic" by The Daily Telegraph and "A contemporary classic" by The Guardian[10] while The Night Alive was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play and described as "Another triumph" by The Independent on Sunday and "A masterstroke" by Time Out. The Financial Times said "sees the Irish playwright at his compassionate best."[11]

The Night Alive transferred to the Atlantic Theatre New York, where it was awarded the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play 2014, and also received Best Play nominations from the Drama Desk and Lucille Lortell Awards[12]

McPherson's play Girl from the North Country, where the dramatic action is broken up by 20 songs by Bob Dylan, opened at London's The Old Vic on 26 July 2017.[13] The play is set in a hotel in 1934 in Duluth, Minnesota, the birthplace of Dylan. The project began when Dylan's office approached McPherson and suggested creating a play using Dylan songs. The drama received favorable reviews.[14][15]


The film of his first screenplay, I Went Down, was critically acclaimed and a great commercial success. His first feature film as a director, Saltwater, won the CICAE award for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival. His second feature film was The Actors, which he wrote and directed.

He is the director and co-writer of The Eclipse, a film which had its world premiere at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. It was picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures and was released in US cinemas in spring 2010.[16] The film subsequently won the Melies D'Argent Award for Best European Film at Sitges in Spain – the world's premier horror and fantasy genre festival. At The 2010 Irish Film and television Awards The Eclipse won the awards for Best Film and Best Screenplay.[17] Ciarán Hinds won the Best Actor Award at the Tribeca Film Festival for his portrayal of Michael Farr.

In 2013, he wrote the last episode of Quirke. In 2020, he co-wrote the feature film adaptation of the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was released digitally worldwide on Disney+ on June 12, 2020.


McPherson has cited James Joyce and Stanley Kubrick as two of his "heroes".[18]

Theatre awards

Theatre-related awards won by McPherson include:[19]



Year Title Roles Notes
1997 I Went Down Loser in nightclub Also writer
2000 Saltwater Director and writer
Endgame Director
Paths to Freedom Video shop assistant "Episode 4"
2002 Fergus's Wedding Dermot "Episode 1"
2003 The Actors Director and writer
2004 Rory O'Shea Was Here Job applicant
2009 The Eclipse Director and writer
2014 Quirke Writer, episode "Elegy for April"
2017 Paula Writer and executive producer, 3 episodes
2020 Artemis Fowl Co-writer


  1. ^ "Irish Times UCD Bloomsday Awards". The Irish Times.
  2. ^ "Conor McPherson Biography (1970?-)". Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  3. ^ "VII Edizione". Premio Europa per il Teatro (in Italian). Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  4. ^ "Europe Theatre Prize - VII Edition - Reasons". Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  5. ^ Charles Spencer 12:01AM BST 11 Jun 2004 (11 June 2004). "Moving, compassionate and gripping". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 August 2017.((cite news)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Ben Brantley (8 February 2007). "The Seafarer – There Came a Gypsy Riding – Theater – London – Column – The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  7. ^ 19.53 EDT (28 May 2014). "Theatre: The Seafarer, A Moon for the Misbegotten and others | Stage". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2017.((cite news)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "National Theatre The Veil". Archived from the original on 13 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Donmar Dance of Death". Archived from the original on 23 June 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Donmar The Weir". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  11. ^ "Donmar Night Alive". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Conor McPherson's The Night Alive scoops Best Play from New York Critics".
  13. ^ FromTheBoxOffice (12 August 2017). "Conor McPherson's Girl from the North Country: What is it about?". FROM THE BOX OFFICE Blog. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  14. ^ Billington, Michael (27 July 2017). "Girl from the North Country review – Dylan's songs are Depression-era dynamite". Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  15. ^ Trueman, Matt (26 July 2017). "London Theater Review: Bob Dylan Musical 'Girl From the North Country'". Variety. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  16. ^ "Magnolia Pictures". Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  17. ^ "Irish Film & Television Network | IFTN | Ireland Film & TV News and Information | Television Production in Ireland | Film and television company directory, Irish film locations, actors, crew, industry events, jobs | The Irish Film & Television Network". 20 July 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  18. ^ "Conor McPherson Q&A: "Aged nine, I heard the Beatles. My life as an artist began"". New Statesman. 11 September 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Conor McPherson – Current Member | Aosdana". Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  20. ^ Karen Fricker (15 April 2005). "Review of Poor Beast in the Rain". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  21. ^ The Nest at the Young Vic Theatre, London, directed by Ian Rickson.
  22. ^ FromTheBoxOffice (9 June 2017). "Conor McPherson's Girl from the North Country: What is it about?". FROM THE BOX OFFICE Blog. Retrieved 10 August 2017.

Further reading