REVIEW: The Ferryman, dir. by Sam Mendes, Gielgud Theatre

 

 

Despite my very Irish family, I'm ashamed to say there is very little I know about the Irish 'troubles'; an issue I worried might somewhat cloud my enjoyment of Jez Butterworth's newest offering to British theatre, The Ferryman. Transferring from the Royal Court, this piece is everything that new writing should be. Witty, brave, accessible and daring, Butterworth and Mendes have created a modern classic, a heart wrenching microcosm of Ireland in the early 1980s, charting the effects of the wider political landscape on a large Irish family, the Carneys, during an August harvest.

 

Laura Donnelly returns to the West End as Caitlin Carney, a woman stuck between the loss of widowhood and the seduction of the impossible. Her performance demonstrates the flexibility of her practice and her complete dedication to character, playing the role with an easy rhythm that lends her the quality of a slightly alcoholic girl-next-door. Accents were prone to a little distracting slippage, as to be expected for a play set so specifically in rural Northern Ireland, but generally found their stride by the second act. Particular note must go to Paddy Considine (Quin Carney), Dearblha Molloy (Aunt Pat) and Brid Brennan (Aunt Maggie Far Away) for truly stand-out delectable performances that left the auditorium in silence, desperate not to interrupt the fascinating reality that had seemingly manifested before us.

 

Working with both children and animals, the naturalistic feel of the Ferryman gives one the feel of watching a celebrated stand-up comic; never sure what is to follow, but trusting that instinct and skill will prevail. The more mythical qualities of Butterworth's text lent itself beautifully to this heavily realist production design, suspended somewhere between politics and myth, truth and fable The Ferryman thrives as a modern Irish folk tale in the heart of London's West-End.