When it was announced that playwriting’s man of the moment, Jez Butterworth was bringing a new play,The Ferryman, to the Royal Court in 2017 I knew I had to get a ticket. However, foolishly I missed out on a chance during the original run so was delighted to snap one up for the Geilgud transfer.
The Ferryman carefully straddles the storylines of the close nit Carney family, in rural County Armagh and the international struggles of religion and the IRA in the early 1980s. The family farmhouse kitchen is centre stage, quite literally, and the Carney family’s personal relationships and troubles sit alongside their place in IRA recruitment, violent threats and protests, missing family members and unrelenting unrest.
The stage is often filled with characters, so many you hardly can imagine where they’re all hiding. Each child actor is relaxed and delivers a spontaneous, natural performance – even the baby! The whole cast in fact is borderline faultless, and throughout the majority of the evening (it is an evening event, at 3 hours long) I entirely forgot I was watching a play and felt like I was peering through a crack in the curtains of the Carney farmhouse, watching everything unfold as harvest time came. Speaking of the harvest, as though a whole brood of children were not enough for the creative team to work with, look out for a live goose and live rabbit that crop up!
Moments of humour, passion and love drift in and out of The Ferryman, whilst an overwhelming sense of fear and dread seep in slowly as the play goes on. With a compelling pace to his writing, Butterworth keeps you transfixed throughout the three hours, this is helped by the play being split into three hour-long sections giving it a very strong sense of structure. The set is beautiful, intensely detailed and a believable home for this vast family.
If you have a chance to grab a ticket to The Ferryman whilst it is at The Geilgud I would absolutely recommend it. It is stirring, funny and thought provoking, everything you could need from a night at the theatre.