Back in 2013, I saw my first much hyped play by Jez Butterworth – Mojo at the Harold Pinter Theatre where the entire play was set in a club, in Soho in 1995 and weaved together the pasts of 6 characters in a short space of time. The Ferryman has a similar approach but set in a kitchen, in Northern Ireland in 1981 and has a much bigger cast that also includes a baby, a rabbit and a goose. Seriously.
The play takes place in the Carney household as the family experience the first harvest in ten years. As Quinn Carney, his wife Mary, their seven children, various relatives, Quinn’s sister in law Caitlin and her son Oisin celebrate they are interrupted by a visitor with knowledge on the death of Caitlin’s husband ten years prior. And that is all I’m going to say about the plot, because the ending was what had me jump to my feet at the end. Because even though the play is at a length 3 hours and 15 minutes, there’s so much history between the characters that takes the audience on many different tangents without forgetting to tie them up.
Paddy Considine (Peaky Blinders, The Girl With All The Gifts) leads the cast as Quinn Carney, making his professional theatre and West End debut, which surprised me because he seems like a natural, at home in the Carney’s kitchen at the Gielgud. Considine brings such hard intensity as Quinn plays up to his role as a family man that when it comes to his scenes with Caitlin, his softer side is more present, which the rest of his family don’t often see in the play. Caitlin is played by Laura Donnelly, who is, without a doubt, the stand out performer in the play. Well, of the adults at least. I really hope she is (at least) nominated for an Olivier for her performance. Caitlin could have been easily written as the type of character that mopes about over her husband’s death but she isn’t. She is strong, caring and isn’t afraid to back down.
The wonderful supporting cast is rounded out by a handful of younger actors who play the kids in the family. The roles are alternated every performance but the sheer joy of watching them hold their own opposite the more experienced grown up actors makes me exciting at what the future holds for them. Plus, you get to see the excitement slip through whenever they swear and it’s joyful to watch.
The Ferryman may seem like an intimidating play due to the content and lengthy running time. You may have seen the new Front Row presenters whinging about how long theatre shows are and how worried they are that the actors may forget their lines. And The Ferryman provides more evidence in that these presenters are talking absolute bollocks because Sam Mendes has directed an incredible ensemble. It’s the play that has had a lot of people talking and deservedly so.
The Ferryman is currently playing at the Gielgud Theatre until January 6th 2018. For tickets and more information please visit http://theferrymanplay.com/
Until next time,