-The Daily Telegraph-

"Hugely rich"

"An astonishingly focused performance"
-The Evening Standard-

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"Triumphant piece of theatre"

Critic Rating

14 September 2017, Gielgud Theatre
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
With writer Jez Butterworth and director by Sam Mendes on board, The Ferryman was always going to have high expectations, and these expectations are certainly met, with this triumphant piece of theatre showcasing themes of repressed love, family unity in the face of adversity and haunting glimmers of the past.

Transferring with its original cast from the Royal Court premiere, The Ferryman is playing at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, featuring the stage debut of Paddy Considine, who performs as the patriarch of the ever-expanding Carney family.

It is set in 1981 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, at a time when Bobby Sands of the IRA was on hunger strike, but the Carneys are bringing in the harvest to enjoy a huge family feast together. The family is an eccentric mix of zany elder members, excitable and impressionable youngsters and boisterous teens, with the story centred around Quinn (Considine) and Caitlin Carney (Laura Donnelly).

At first, Quinn and Caitlin seem like a happily-married couple, dancing blindfolded by candlelight in one of the early scenes of the play, but their shared surname ties them in a different way to their desires; Caitlin is married to Quinn’s brother Seamus, whose body has just been found after being missing for ten years. The discovery of the body threatens to destroy the happy harvest banquet and shatters family man and farmer Quinn, as it reconnects him to an unpleasant past that he would rather not drag up.

Amongst the sizeable family of nephews, great aunts and kids crammed into the overflowing farmhouse kitchen to celebrate the harvest, is the oddball Englishman Tom Kettle (John Hodgkinson) who stands out in height, accent and disposition as he strides in brandishing a live goose on one occasion. His presence is unwanted by some as he is a blunt reminder of the political tensions in Northern Ireland, and his own destructive desires in the family are some that should be left hidden for fear of destroying a family already on the verge of devastation.

Other characters who stand out are Brid Brennan as Aunt Maggie Faraway, whose name describes her well for the most part aside from her outbursts of intricate soliloquys to the youngsters, and Tom Glynn-Carney as Shane Corcornan who isn’t featured in the first act at all and by the third, shines as the oldest of the Corcornan brothers.

The Ferryman runs for well over 3 hours and is an emotional accomplishment with a wealth of interesting characters in the 20-plus cast. It weaves humour with love and danger, and the engaging story-line has many brilliant moments that all lead to one cataclysmic conclusion.

Reviewed by Alice Bzowska.

Dominic Cavendish
This compelling evening, which derives its title from a classical allusion to Charon, ferryman of the dead, brings to the boil the meat of human life: the anguish of suppressed longing and lives half-lived, the distinction between land and home-land, the allure of violence and the need to take a death-defying stand against it. Butterworth’s promise? Amply confirmed. As good as Jerusalem? Well, perhaps not, but that’s beside the point. Miss this and you’ve missed a marvel.
Sarah Crompton
Huge in the scale of its cast, of its ambition, of its rich themes. But above all, massive in its capacity to hold an audience rapt, in silence, telling them a story. It is, like Jerusalem before it, an extraordinary, thrilling act of belief in the power of theatre to gather people in a room and make them listen.
Henry Hitchings
There are some similarities here to Butterworth’s last smash hit, Jerusalem, not least a sense of the mystique of rural life. Yet The Ferryman has its own distinct tang of humour and menace. A feast of intricate storytelling, it’s absorbing, soulful and ultimately shattering.
Michael Billington
But what gives Butterworth’s play such shattering force is its Hardyesque love of rural rituals and its compassionate exploration of unspoken love. At the heart of the play lies the tender relationship between Quinn, whom Paddy Considine endows with an unflinching integrity, and his brother’s wife, Caitlin, beautifully played by Laura Donnelly. The idea of secret passion extends to two aunts who, in different ways, lost their loved ones.
Andrzej Lukowski
'The Ferryman' is vast, a play that's formally conventional but has an ambition that's out of this world, a sense that it wants to be about EVERYTHING. And insofar as is realistically possible, it succeeds. But despite the teeming cast and interwoven plot lines it remains intimate, set in the dining room of a single Armagh farmhouse in 1981.