The Ferryman "will stay with you long after the curtain falls"

Posted on 6 March 2018

Written by Jez Butterworth, directed by Sam Mendes and developed by Sonia Friedman Productions, The Ferryman premiered to rave reviews at the Royal Court Theatre in April 2017 and became the fastest-selling show in the theatre’s history and has gone on to earn a stunning 8 Olivier Award nominations this year. Following this critical acclaim, the production has now transferred to the West End’s Gielgud Theatre, where it will remain until May 2018.

The play is set in Armagh, Northern Ireland, 1981.  The Carney family home is brimming with relatives old and young, all preparing for the festivities of the annual harvest; a hard day’s work on the land, followed by a traditional night of feasting and celebrations.  Underneath the dancing, drinking, storytelling and singing simmers the forebodingly long reach of the IRA and the disappearance of a long-dead brother. Tales of the Easter Rising and ancient feuds blend with family tensions as the collective hurts bubble through to the climax of the narrative.

In the original cast, Paddy Considine made his stage debut originating the role of activist turned farmer Quin Carney and played the role with a simmering volatility that spilled over into the audience.  Laura Donnelly played the fiery Caitlin Carney, who is trapped mourning the disappearance of her husband, Quin’s brother Seamus, whilst yearning for Quin’s love; a feeling that is exquisitely and devastatingly reciprocated.  With two incredible lead performances, and Donnelly’s close relation to the script (the disappearance of her uncle was part of the inspiration for Butterworth’s story), the incoming cast had a tough act to follow, but Rosalie Craig (Caitlin) and Owen McDonnell (Quin) have taken over the helm with ease.  The play is delivered with passion and understanding and there are standout performances from the whole cast (including a fantastic array of talented child performers who inject some beautiful moments of humour), each character with a story that draws you in and endears you to the Carney family.

The Ferryman is the latest in the line of visionary Butterworth’s theatrical masterpieces, with Mojo and Jerusalem enjoying similar praise and successes.  Each play is united in its strength of character; the action bolsters the audience and leaves you completely at the mercy of Butterworth’s meticulous script.  The intimacy of the set has lost nothing in its transfer to the Gielgud Theatre, where all the action takes place (with exception of the opening scene) in the Carney’s home, with family members appearing and disappearing from all over the stage as the chaos ensues.  An absolute must-see, the show will not disappoint and will stay with you long after the curtain falls.

The Ferryman tickets are some of the most sought after in the West End, book your tickets now before the run ends 19 May.

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Laura Franek

By Laura Franek

Laura is an actor and writer based in South London