The Ferryman, Gielgud Theatre | Review

The Ferryman 
Gielgud Theatre 
Reviewed on Monday 5th February 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

Two of the hottest names in theatre and film have come together to create a masterful, intricate piece of theatre. Founder of the Donmar Warehouse, Sam Mendes and award winning playwright Jez Butterworth have constructed 3 hours, 15 minutes of dramatic storytelling, filled with equal parts tenderness and tension.

Set in rural Northern Ireland in 1981, The Ferryman follows the Carney family as they prepare for the annual harvest feast. The family is vast with the huge cast featuring a whole range of ages and some real farmyard animals! They all work wonderfully together to create a realistic family vibe as they bounce off one another and face the highs and lows of family life. The comedy and flow of family life is flawless with fantastic performances across the board, especially from the children.

Whilst the surface story is the family portrait, it's politics that seeps through this play. With IRA connections and bloodshed over the generations causing tension and pain for all involved. It's striking and moving to watch. 

Pacing wise, The Ferryman is good, with the third act especially providing punch after punch. However, I found some moments to be over indulgent and it definitely could have been cut down; but there's no denying that Jez Butterworth is certainly a master storyteller and has woven a masterful script which excites and engages throughout.

Owen McDonnell is understated and layered as patriarch Quinn Carney. Rosalie Craig as the struggling Caitlin is extremely interesting to watch as she puts of a brave face whilst the wounds of her husband's disappearance are ripped open. The entire younger cast are dynamic as they bounce off one another, first in a playful way and gradually transitioning to anger and suspicion. The character development of each individual is extremely well written and performed with Francis Mezza as Shane Corcoran providing a wonderfully arched portrayal. 

The Ferryman is a glorious piece of theatre which flows and cadences with ease and vigour. It's lengthy but so worth the watch. This is a play that not only makes you think but makes you want to talk and pick apart every aspect of it. Get yourself along to the Gielgud theatre to experience a theatrical spectacle.  

For tickets and information about the show, visit

photo credit: Johann Persson

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