The Ferryman

Theatre, Drama Gielgud Theatre , Soho Tuesday June 20 2017 - Saturday October 7 2017
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 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Paddy Considine (Quinn Carney), Sophia Ally (Honor Carney), Elise Alexandre (Mercy Carney) and Rob Malone (Oisin Carney)

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Laura Donnelly (Caitlin Carney), Dearbhla Molloy (Aunt Patricia Carney) and Genevieve O’Reilly (Mary Carney)

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© Johan Persson

01981 – Fra Fee (Michael Carney), Carla Langley (Shena Carney), Niall Wright (JJ Carney), Paddy Considine (Quinn Carney), Sophia Ally (Honor Carney), Michael McCarthy (Declan Corcoran), John Hodgkinson (Tom Kettle), Genevieve O’Reilly (Mary Carney) and Rob Malone (Oisin Carney)

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Des McAleer (Uncle Patrick Carney)

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Paddy Considine (Quinn Carney) and Genevieve O’Reilly (Mary Carney)

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Laura Donnelly (Caitlin Carney) and Paddy Considine (Quinn Carney)

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Laura Donnelly (Caitlin Carney) and Paddy Considine (Quinn Carney)

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Laura Donnelly (Caitlin Carney) and Genevieve O’Reilly (Mary Carney)

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Sam Mendes directs the astonishing new play from Jez 'Jerusalem' Butterworth

There is a live goose in 'The Ferryman'. And a live rabbit. And a live baby. None of these things are particularly important in and of themselves, but I guess I have to start somewhere in describing this enormous, shattering eruption of a play from 'Jerusalem' playwright Jez Butterworth. 

'The Ferryman' is vast, a play that's formally conventional but has an ambition that's out of this world, a sense that it wants to be about EVERYTHING. And insofar as is realistically possible, it succeeds. But despite the teeming cast and interwoven plot lines it remains intimate, set in the kitchen  of a single Armagh farmhouse in 1981. Bond director Sam Mendes's recent theatrical record has largely involved bombastic West End fodder, but here he controls everything with a powerful restraint that keeps 'The Ferryman' in sharp focus through every shift of shape.

'The Ferryman' is a play about Ireland and about Northern Ireland (Butterworth's family is of Irish descent). It is a play set at the height of Bobby Sands's hunger strike. It is a play about an era modern enough to feel recognisable, but far enough away that its older generation experienced the Easter Rising firsthand. It is a play about a mystical idea of Ireland in which fairies and banshees and magic all exist, somewhere. It is a play about youthful idealism and brutal adult pragmatism. Like most of Butterworth's work, it is funny, with much of the humour here coming from its child cast swearing like troopers.

It is, in a more prosaic sense, about Quinn Carney (Paddy Considine), a loving father whose life has been haunted by the unexplained disappearance of his brother Seamus, leaving him and his distant wife Mary (Genevieve O'Reilly) to take in his brother's vivacious wife Caitlin (Laura Donnelly) who always clung to the possibility Seamus would return. But a body has been found preserved in a bog, and a watchful peace made possible by uncertainly is about to end.

This is not a rehash of 'Jerusalem' - spoiler alert, but you might want to look to David Cronenberg's 'A History of Violence' for closer inspiration. And while Considine's performance - full of tenderness, authority, and suppressed violence - is remarkable, he is not a 'Rooster' Byron but a little part of a big, scary, beautiful world. He feels scarcely more important a character than his seer aunt Maggie Far Away (Brid Brennan), or his strange, shamanic English neighbour Tom Kettle (John Hodgkinson) or young Shake (Tom Glynn-Carney) seduced by thoughts of IRA glory. 

The play is vast - three-and-a-half-hours - but even though lengthy stretches are nothing more than generations bickering at the breakfast table, nothing feels wasted, every strand is respected, Mendes choreographs everything to perfection.

And when the climax you half suspect is coming, comes, it is like a final, epoch ending volcanic eruption, the play's carefully constructed emotional checks and balances detonating in a maelstrom of violence and feeling that left me genuinely stunned. 

'The Ferryman' is sold out at the Royal Court (except Mondays) but you can buy tickets HERE to its transfer to the Gielgud Theatre, Jun 20-Oct 7

By: Andrzej Lukowski

Posted:

Venue name: Gielgud Theatre
Contact:
Address: Shaftesbury Avenue
London
W1D 6AR
Transport: Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Price: £12-£45. Runs 3hr 20min
Event website: http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/the-ferryman
To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

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LiveReviews|5
2 people listening
Arlette L

Brilliant production.  Enjoyed this as it captured so many emotions and being Irish some bits resonated with Irish families, the craic, singing.  Fantastic acting and so many surprises.

Chris
Tastemaker

Absolutely loved this play - it's long but it flies by. Engrossing, funny, absorbing and an ending which will make you gasp. Must be one of the plays of the year! Get a ticket for the west end transfer while you still can.

John C
tastemaker

Every now & again the Royal Court hits the jackpot. This doesn't happen very often these days  - so I'm more than delighted to welcome  "The Ferryman". They were very much helped with a brilliant playwright  Jez Butterworth, an outstanding director Sam Mendes & a perfect cast.This is the shortest 3 & a quarter hour play I've ever seen. It is totally engrossing, it's amusing, and its unforgettable.

Brendan Y

Get tickets for the West End run NOW ! As soon as word gets out, tickets will be imposdible. Play of the year so far for me. I'd say even edges out the Almeida Hamlet. (Not including the van Hove Roman plays as that was not in rep).