THEATRE REVIEW: The Ferryman ★★★★
The Gielgud Theatre, London
Saturday 12th August 2017
Hailed as the ‘Play of the Year’ by TimeOut, The Ferryman first debut was at The Royal Court on 24th April 2017 and got 5*s across the board and further rave reviews from anyone who had seen it, so I was very excited to see what all the commotion was about, so let me tell you when I left the theatre, I was certainly not disappointed.
The play is set in 1981 Northern Ireland, where we meet the Carney family, to whom the whole production is centred around in their kitchen. It’s a smart move from the creative team in this instance, as the family is so large and full of drama throughout the production that it’s nice to have one constant setting to peak in throughout the whole performance, almost making us intruders into the lives of Quinn Carney (Paddy Considine), his wife Mary (Genevieve O’Reilly), Sister-in-Law Caitlin (Laura Donnelly), and the many children shared between them all. What is also really surprising to see on stage was a live goose and rabbit, but not as surprising was the live baby on stage, looked after on stage majority by Shena Carney (Carla Langley), as this is the second production this year where I have seen this happen, the other being Consent at The National Theatre.
I will admit that it took some time at several parts during the production to really understand what was going on; as I have had limited time being around those from Northern Ireland, the accent at the beginning was hard to come by with all the slang used, but slowly over time this became more understandable and I really got drawn into the action when the strong accents became less of a problem. I was speaking to a lady shortly after the production where we both further agreed that a story told by Aunt Maggie (Bríd Brennan) at the start of the second act seemed to have dragged along more than it needed it as it simply to me beared no resemblance to the plot prior to the story or foreshadowing anything down the line. Maggie was a character that also started to grind on me as the performance went on, though Brennan should not be criticised for this as she gave a stellar performance with the material she was given, which could also be further extended to the rest of the cast, especially Considine and O’Reilly, plus all the child actors.
The highlight though really was the direction from Sam Mendes. No stranger of his work, from 007’s Skyfall to his West End debut on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the way he has taken this gripping story from Jez Butterworth’s stellar production is a true testament to the skill and diversity that Mendes brings to this production. Moments that really stick out in my mind was the climactic points from Act Two and Three, both imprinted due to the sheer work that must has been undertaken to create such an atmosphere that the auditorium completely falls silent to the incredible performances that are being produced on stage.
Overall, The Ferryman is a real gem of theatre right now on the West End, and with a extension lasting till January 2018, I really must urge anyone with a gut feeling of this production to buy a ticket right away!