'The Ferryman'; a review.

On Monday 5th February, I saw 'The Ferryman' at the Gielgud Theatre, London.  

(My photo; background Deborah Latter's artwork)

The play was written by Jez Butterworth, and this production is directed by Sam Mendes. It stars Rosalie Craig, Owen McDonnell, Justin Edwards, Sian Thomas - and many, many more! 

'The Ferryman is set in Northern Ireland, 1981. The Carney family are busy preparing for an evening of feasting and celebrations following the annual harvest day. But this year, they have a visitor...'
(source: From the Box Office.) 

I took one of my bosses to see this show with me and I have to say, this theatre trip was possibly the most fantastic thing we could have done on that cold dark night. We were completely transported to Ireland in the 80s, surrounded by the warmth and hilarity of family - but then after this initial warmth, there came chills. And just like that, we were on the edges of our seats and completely hooked. 

A fascinating thing about this play (one of many) was the political plot that ran thick beneath the seemingly charming family atmosphere. Before long, we ignorant Brits in the audience (*raises hand*) had learned about the IRA and the hunger strikes that were taking place in 1981 - and, well, some of the Irish population's hatred of the ignorant Brits.

Another brilliant ingredient in this production was the impossibly intense chemistry between the main characters; Quinn and Caitlin almost had me gasping with their want for each other, then Mary's indignant and powerful presence in scenes was startling, and the kids' bonds with each other were wonderfully tight throughout. 

I also loved the utterly magnificent aunts; Aunt Pat, passionate, politically minded and hot-tempered, and Aunt Maggie, distant and subtle to say the least. The latter would sit throughout almost every scene, mostly silent, but I would find myself inexplicably drawn to her when the other actors were moving about and commanding the space - and every time I looked, I saw her face acting just as hard as anyone else onstage, but very quietly. Then when she spoke, or sang, she held everyone in the audience in the palm of her hand, where it rested on her wheelchair. Her interactions with the children almost brought tears to my eyes; when she told them of her desperate love for a man many years before, who hadn't even been aware of her existence, and got totally swept up in her story...only to then disappear again, before the young characters' eyes. The youngest then said 'I love it when she visits, but I get sad when she goes.'*

*no doubt disgracefully paraphrased

'[I'd] disembowel that smirking sanctimonious, stone-hearted sow right here on the table!'
- Auntie Pat, of Margaret Thatcher.

(When I realised this woman had been in Harry Potter, I freaked out so hard)

There was only one set throughout the play (albeit moved around considerably a couple of times during the performance) and the detail of it, the atmosphere it created, was sublime. The actors used the whole stage; always moving, even when sat down to family dinner, they'd wash dishes and serve drinks - and they'd happily run up and down the long wooden staircase,which frightened me endlessly. 

Also I must mention the animals?!! After looking up the play online and seeing a little disclaimer saying the animals were all well-trained and very looked after, professionally handled etc., I thought...are they going to perform a farmer family harvest onstage?! But no, every animal featured was in fact an insanely adorable addition. I won't spoil it any more...

I found that for several hours after leaving the theatre, I was actually thinking in an Irish accent. No, seriously. The cast absolutely nailed the characters' voices, and having seen a few productions set in Ireland or with Irish characters in recent years, I can confirm there were no slip-ups or clumsy interpretations. Even the kids they had acting in this were completely spot on with their enunciation!?

I cannot recommend this production enough. But then I guess if you still aren't sold on my word alone then take it from Dara O'Briain, who was laughing numerous times and then as visibly gripped as the rest of us, sitting two rows in front of me! 

'The Ferryman' is - due to massive demand - taking bookings until May 2018.
Get your tickets now, at From the Box Office!

(This man was very attractive, despite his intense political aggression. Mmm.)

You can find my other theatre-related review posts in my DRAMA section.


  1. This honestly seems so interesting, and I am not usually a drama fan (the only play I've ever seen was Chicago, in a translated version). I might have to check this out! Thanks.

    1. You totally should! I haven't seen many plays in recent years, but this one was so special. I'd see it again, if possible! xo


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