Review: The Ferryman

by Daniel Hill

I have reviewed 11 plays and seen many more since June 2016 but this is the best one I have seen in this period; possibly in my life. Jez Butterworth’s script is a masterpiece and the direction from Sam Mendes is equally inspiring. I was blown away with a production which deserved a full standing ovation.

The play is based around an Irish family who are affected by the IRA. We learn about their relationships and how they deal with their connections with the IRA. Jez Butterworth creates characters who we are able to relate to in many ways and feel for.  He is also very clever on misleading us throughout the play, especially towards the beginning. One moment in particular had my heart beating at a rapid speed.  I was very impressed with the play itself and the plot created. Poignancy was created through song and excitement through dance. The standard of this piece was truly outstanding.

There was no particular actor who seemed to stand out as the play came across almost as an ensemble piece with the whole company giving an amazing performance. Aunt Maggie, played by Maureen Beattie, brought a sinister touch to the show as she glared out towards the audience as she sang an eerie Irish song. Will Houston who played the role of Quinn Carnegie brought fresh characterisation each time he entered the stage and often made the atmosphere feel homely. I was particularly engaged with Laurie Davidson in the role of Shane Corcoran as he began to realise what his involvement in the death of a prisoner was and how he lost control towards the end due to this.

The production was built into an amazing set which created the kitchen of a house. Every detail was present in order to make it a very naturalistic production. The tall flight of stairs gave the audience a glimpse of what may happen before the characters can see. The lighting through the window to convey a sense of time shift is also very powerful as we set the sun set.  I can fully understand why this has transferred from the Royal Court to the Gielgud Theatre on the West End.

Although it was an amazing piece of theatre I would like to touch on the use of live animals in the play. A goose and rabbit are used in the play and I wasn’t quite sure what the use of live animals added. I personally feel that the rabbit did not bring anything to this production that wasn’t already created and the goose could have been seen through a puppet. Although they kept the naturalism in the piece, they were not necessarily needed in creating the outstanding piece of theatre I witnessed.

If you love going to the theatre, this is the play for you. If you don’t like the theatre, this may change your mind. Although it is fairly long at 3 hours 20 minutes, the time seems to go by very quickly with very few dragged moments. I was left almost speechless after the final scene which had me on the edge of my seat. I urge anyone reading to go and see this truly amazing production.