Beginning at the Royal Court, before transferring to the West End, Jez Butterworth’s ('Jerusalem') new Northern Irish drama was the winner of three Olivier Awards, including "Best New Play." More…
Northern Ireland, 1981. The Carney farmhouse is a hive of activity with preparations for the annual harvest. A day of hard work on the land and a traditional night of feasting and celebrations lie ahead. But this year they will be interrupted by a visitor. Directed by Sam Mendes ('Cabaret').
“Mendes’ direction of the enormous cast is exquisite. The pacing of the action, the timing of the speeches, the nuanced acting he inspires are impeccable. The entire cast functions as a single organism, all members working toward the single goal of opening our minds to a mystery involving the irony of the illusion of freedom and the invisible bonds of fate...Essential viewing not just for its immaculate direction and performances but for the high relevance of its content.” Full Review
"Butterworth has done it again, this time with another rural drama of mighty magnitude set across a single, darkening day...This is a three-hour feast populated with an even more ambitious 22 characters...There is a new warmth about Butterworth’s writing – which eschews the self-aware dialogue of yore and taps his own Irish-Catholic provenance for a vitality that memorably manifests itself in wild Dionysiac outbreaks of dancing...Miss this and you’ve missed a marvel." Full Review
"A triumphant show that fully justifies the hype...Mendes’s richly textured production his farmhouse kitchen is a place teeming with vitality...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." Full Review
“’The Ferryman' is profligate, boisterous, far-reaching...It could so easily have been corny, this wild parade of Irish characters, dancing, telling stories and recruiting for the IRA. In fact, Butterworth makes skittles out of the near-stereotypes with caustic comedy...This is a cast without weak links. Considine, making his stage debut...is completely controlled and completely disturbed. Donnelly is fiery and desolate...Glynn-Carney is extraordinary.” Full Review
“A family saga, gangster epic, ghost story and a tale of love undeclared all rolled into one...Butterworth conjures a credible set of characters of every age and condition...Butterworth’s control of his characters – never mind the plot – is remarkable...The howl of the banshees becomes a totem for the climax, which is as unexpected as it is horrific. Pop songs, dancing, drinking and stories are all incorporated into the rich tapestry...A richly rewarding night.” Full Review
"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...The story is so compellingly intricate that it would be a shame to give more away. Butterworth's writing, both flexible and controlled, makes every moment, whether funny, tender or tragic worth leaning forward to catch...Mendes' direction brings poetry to the most immensely detailed naturalism." Full Review
“The production is extravagant...Nearly everyone gets time to shine with a monologue or a captivating scene...And yet the story remains captivating and clear even remaining relatable to audience members who are not very familiar with the events of The Troubles. The script is deliciously anecdotal, sparkling with humour and it succeeds at painting detailed portraits of well-rounded characters...The ensemble fizzes with chemistry.” Full Review
“Butterworth’s phenomenal new play...Directed by Mendes, the production is gripping as it subtly builds up the tension but also provides plenty of laughs. It is full of storytelling...Folk tales also come into play...Like Butterworth’s previous hit 'Jerusalem,' this brings a haunting mood to the play that adds an epic dimension...The play reminds us that violence and passion cause wounds that are not so easy to heal.” Full Review
“Butterworth’s script is masterfully paced, albeit slow-burning...Getting to know the characters takes time. Watching them develop is satisfying, though, like completing a jigsaw; with every scene, their motives mature...The cast commit to the story unanimously, and it shows in the familial chemistry between them...A play that leaves nothing to the imagination: Mendes stages it to the highest degree of authenticity...A deep, heart-breaking look at the effects of unrelenting political discord." Full Review
"A rich, serious, deeply involving play about the shadows of the past and the power of silent love...What gives Butterworth’s play such shattering force is its Hardyesque love of rural rituals and its compassionate exploration of unspoken love...The power of Mendes’s terrific production...lies in its ability to combine scrupulous naturalism with a sense of the mysterious." Full Review
"All the fuss was largely justified...The production keeps warm, expert control of the mercurial moods and temperamental traffic of the vast family...Some very well written scenes of late-night teenage boozing explore the tensions between peaceable rural behaviour of the Carney lads and the harder ways of their visiting Corcoran cousins...The piece is not as original as 'Jerusalem,' but it has the feel of unearthed, instant classic." Full Review
"A mighty affair, sending stories, characters, history, politics, and love skittering across the floor with the flair of a gambler rolling dice. It’s a stunning piece of writing: teeming with life; haunted by death...Butterworth takes the great family drama and makes it his own...He offers a masterclass in observing the classical unities, using dramatic irony, and building tension...This is a magnificent new play that uses, brilliantly, the vitality of theatre to express the deadly legacy of ... Full Review
"This enormous, shattering eruption of a play...Vast, a play that's formally conventional but has an ambition that's out of this world...It succeeds. But despite the teeming cast and interwoven plot lines it remains intimate...Even though lengthy stretches are nothing more than generations bickering at the breakfast table, nothing feels wasted, every strand is respected, Mendes choreographs everything to perfection...Left me genuinely stunned." Full Review
"Though 'The Ferryman' is compelling even in its quiet moments, the play doesn’t entirely justify its mammoth running time and the violent tying together of the various threads feels a little rapid – if genuinely shocking. The last few moments will knock the wind out of you. In his mixing of the mythic and the modern...there’s a sense too that Butterworth is repurposing some of his former tricks – but it doesn’t really matter: they’re brilliant tricks and that’s what all magicians do." Full Review
“There is something about Jez Butterworth’s great hunking slab of meat of a new play – all juicy and succulent and dripping in blood – that compels one to make human contact...Bang-out brilliant show – directed with verve and control by Sam Mendes...At its heart, ‘The Ferryman’ is an impassioned search for a true and lasting definition of ‘family’. Butterworth tests and tweaks this definition at every turn.” Full Review
“Mendes directs with apparent leisure but masterly attention, tugging at the threads, planting the plot’s needling hints and twists with beautiful precision...The play grips without strain or letup...Even so, ‘The Ferryman’ can feel like every Irish play ever...Still, ‘The Ferryman’ is richly absorbing, its plot kinked and ample, its writing generous — everyone gets a story, a joke and a speech that lets you glimpse their soul...Irresistible storytelling.” Full Review
"A ripping thriller in a big family home, stuffed with eccentricity and black comedy, it swells into an expansive examination of Republican history, politics and identity, as tied up with the IRA...It’s a tumbling and tumultuous play, one that swerves off into storytelling, song and dance, and debate, without taking its eye off the need for suspense. It’s a thriller that bursts the bounds of its genre, but never forgets what makes the form tick...The tension is as electric as it is symbolic." Full Review
“Those lucky enough to score tickets are unlikely to be disappointed, as this is a consistently absorbing, emotionally rich and beautifully executed work of theater. For some, however, the only mild reservation might be that it's clearly a work that already has crowned itself Serious Theater about Big Themes, pandering to expectations with show-stopping monologues, adorably potty-mouthed pre-pubescent kids and cuddly live animals onstage." Full Review
"A classic, bustling domestic comedy in which an extended family lives in contented close quarters and everybody chips in to help. Of course, in this clan, even the little ones swear like sailors on a bender...Butterworth specializes in making what might be too much from anybody else feel somehow exactly right. Life as he portrays it is so expansive, only myth and melodrama can accommodate its dimensions." Full Review
“Although the portrait of Quinn, Mary and Caitlin is deeply sympathetic, as are the pictures of the youngest children, who are full of laughter, there’s a cruel streak in the play and its ending offers a counsel of despair. Its politics are nihilistic, and women play second fiddle to the men...Mendes orchestrates this domestic epic...with enormous clarity and control...It’s really an amazing experience, if a rather heartless one. But Butterworth’s storytelling finesse carries all before it.” Full Review
“Plot elements don’t quite stack up. And the tone is sentimental...Butterworth’s dialect sounds convincing but his grasp of Catholic morality is less sure...This is a good show but some way short of a classic. It’s bound to prosper...The subject matter is obscure, the accents are difficult, the running time is problematic and the cast requires more than 20 actors, plus a bunny rabbit and two geese, one dead and one heavily sedated but nevertheless alive. Catch it while you can.” Full Review
See it if you enjoy British dramas with constant emotional highs and lows for three captivating hours.
Don't see it if you need an uplifting, positive show or want to walk out of the theater singing.
See it if You are interested in a play about an Irish family, the IRA, and familial relationships. This is a masterful production and not to be missed
Don't see it if You are challenged by Irish dialect and don't mind missing talented writing and talented acting
See it if You enjoy seeing an epic entertaining story supported by great acting. This story accomplishes that from start to finish.
Don't see it if You are bothered by anything related to the Northern Ireland religious and political strife of 1960s - 80s.
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