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Thursday 30 November 2017

The Ferryman, Play (2017), by Jez Butterworth, Gielgud Theatre, London 9* out of 10

The Ferryman embodies the strong writing, directing and performing for which it is worth to go to the theatre in London even if you come from far away. Great directing  of a 20 people cast by Sam Mendes.

It is 1981 in County Armagh Northern Ireland and the Carneys, an extended lively Irish-catholic family, are about to bring in the annual harvest on their farm. They are staunch republicans, former staunch republicans who were members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and some of them try not to get involved too much in the conflict. But the recent past is about to catch up with them and shatter the present accommodations of their family and social lives.

Jez Butterworth’s 2017 play is a great piece of storytelling about family, love, crime and politics. It is intelligent, witty and suspenseful, in turns, funny and moving. The Ferryman is theatre on a grand scale with a cast of more than 20 characters, a few of them children with substantial roles. The cast even includes a baby that last night when I saw the play accomplished its part with angelic brilliance. The entire cast is a joy to behold, jointly and severally. This is remarkable as the acclaimed cast from its original run at the Royal Court Theatre has been replaced by an all new one. There are outstanding performances from William Houston as Quinn Carney, head of the family, and Sarah Green as his brother’s wife Caitlin Carney. Director Sam Mendes has done an excellent job to avoid any dull moments in a play of about 3 hours. With the help of Mendes and the excellent cast, Butterworth moves deftly among the genres of crime thriller, family drama and mystical interludes.

If anything can be criticized, it is the accumulation of (Northern) Irish stereotypes, which may make this play less enjoyable for those who have lived in Northern Ireland during the troubles or still live there today.

But wherever you come, this is the strong writing, directing and performing for which it is worth to come to London and visit theatre here.

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