Fresh from their outstanding win at the WhatsOnStage Awards, Jez Butterworth and Sam Mendes’ phenomenal play, The Ferryman, is nicely situated at The Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, a long way away from Derry where this tale takes place.
Although the runtime for this piece is slightly longer than normal (there are two intervals), the outstanding performance seems to sail right past you in the blink of an eye! Just sit back, relax, and lose yourself in this escapist story set in Northern Ireland. You’ll absolutely marvel at the production’s keen attention to detail, which will make you feel as if you were gathering right around the kitchen table alongside the Carney family (husband and wife, aunts, uncles and a group of eight children) on an engaging set that boasts a live goose, a baby and a rabbit!
The play’s strong themes revolve around a long-lost father/husband/brother, an issue that hangs over the family throughout the course of the story and prevents them from progressing with their normal, everyday lives. Children mill around with a sort of innocence that belies their awareness of the use of strong language that’s heavily prevalent in their daily lives – viewer discretion advised: there is the odd swear word here and there but this adds to the measure and authenticity of the work on display. The stark contrast between family members’ views on the IRA underscores the varying perceptions found among us as a society, and the effect is tangible, seen through the tension on stage where the characters meld so perfectly well with one another.
The Ferryman is quite a dark piece of theatre and pulls no punches in this regard, but extraordinary acting talent allows the cast members to shine bright through the story’s gloomy darkness. The goose that goes missing is a humorous touch and the side lamps catching fire followed by the scramble to put them out adds a bit of comedic relief as well. The second act boasts a Harvest Dinner, and the beautiful dance that follows where everyone gets up on their feet makes you want to get up and join them too. The play covers salient topics such as Aunt Maggie Faraway suffering from Alzheimer’s, which can get quite overwhelming at times. However, it was tackled in such a delicate way and made the whole depiction of suffering from dementia all the more meaningful through the stark and coherent moments of lucidity lost in a sea of bewilderment.
“Sorry for your troubles” – that’s a common utterance when referring to the Easter Rising in 1916, the IRA, and the Hunger Strike. But mark my words, there is no trouble at all with this fantastic play. It’s flawless! The Ferryman also quite rightly broke records the day tickets for its transfer went on sale. Believe the hyperbole and do make sure that if you only see one play this year, that you jump aboard The Ferryman before it sets sail on 19 May 2018!
Buy your Gielgud Theatre Ferryman tickets here.
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