The Ferryman is Jez Butterworths latest play to hit the West End. After a successful run at the Royal Court it is now playing at the Gielgud Theatre. Directed by Sam Mendes The Ferryman takes you back to 1981 in Northern Ireland where the IRA is at the heart of its conflict.
The show is set in the Carney’s family kitchen. Whilst hunger strikes rage on in the outside world this families priority is the Harvest. Beneath all this is the initially unspoken loss of one of them, Quinn’s brother. His whereabouts has been unknown for 10 years until they get a visitor. The show is crafted brilliantly with elements of the plot gradually eeked out and left there to hang, building up tension while focus is shifted slightly elsewhere. There is a cast of 21 which means there are numerous family and relationship dynamics to absorb. These layers however are revealed in such a way that they aren’t overwhelming and all add beautifully to the story.
The show is an emotional whirlwind. One moment jokes are being cracked but the next you are watching the Carney family face insurmountable loss. This technique keeps the audiences interest peaked throughout. Sam Mendes helps by keeping the action flowing beautifully. The set itself is a huge country kitchen with stairs leading to the bedrooms and other exits into different parts of the house and outside. This means you never know who would appear next on stage or indeed where they would come from. This helped the story feel unpredictable.
The cast spans from a baby to a 90 year old aunt with all generations in between. Each should be applauded for their commitment to the piece. Every person on the stage had clearly thought through their relationships with each other. The attention to detail they gave each character helped these levels of relationships develop and become clear. Whenever there was multiple people on stage there was always someone to watch away from the main action and often their reaction was as fascinating as the focus itself.
Laura Donnelly’s as Caitlin Carney, the widow left behind, constant bustling around the kitchen sets the status of the family without words needing to be spoken. When Genevieve O’Reilly as Mary Carney, Quinn’s wife, appears the hierarchy has already been developed leaving all feeling uncomfortable. Whilst the script itself is finely crafted these moments created by the director Sam Mendes help underline the story further and give it even more power.
For a play set in a kitchen it is epic on many levels. The overarching themes of love and loss, the historical context, the sheer size of the cast and the length of the show are just some examples of this yet The Ferryman succeeds in bringing this epic production to the personal level.
I saw this show courtesy of SeatPlan – a website that lets you check out the view from numerous seats in West End theatres and further afield such as Birmingham, Edinburgh and Oxford. It includes genuine audience members reviews for the seats – if you look hard enough you might even find some of my own reviews on there! You can even earn theatre vouchers from posting your own reviews and photos. The Ferryman is booking until 7th October 2017 and tickets can be purchased through Seat Plan.