I’ve been a big fan of Jez Butterworth ever since I saw the fantastic Jerusalem a few years ago, so when I heard about his new play The Ferryman I was more than a bit excited. And when its run at Gielgud Theatre coincided with the first Culture Night of 2018 it was the perfect choice!
So sandwiched between brunch and cocktails at The Soho Hotel, a quick whizz around Lumiere London, and a tasty dinner at the newly revamped Kettner’s Townhouse we popped along for the three hour (yes that’s right three hour) performance – and we were very glad we did.
Set in the hectic 1981 Carney household in Northern Ireland in the middle of the troubles and the IRA hunger strikes, the play is about the extensive Carney family – kids, wives, husbands, grandparents, aunts, great aunts, cousins, friends, neighbours and animals – all preparing for the annual harvest. Amidst the lively preparations, they’re interrupted by some unwanted visitors bearing some unwanted news…
With a cast of more than 20 and tensions between them of love, hate, madness, bitterness, and any other emotion you can think of. The play is vast in every sense of the word – and the climax, although in part predictable, is still shocking and it certainly didn’t feel like it took three hours to reach!
My only criticism is that much of the action takes place in the bottom right hand side of the stage, which isn’t ideal for those of us who were sitting in the Upper Circle. Obviously director Sam Mendes has never had to sit in the cheap seats, because if he had he might have directed the cast more towards the middle of the stage!
However it is an exceptional play with both great humour and absolute sorrow – they’re currently booking until the 19th May, so get tickets while you can.