Previewed 24 April 2017, Opened 3 May 2017, Closed 20 May 2017 at the Royal Court Theatre
Previewed 20 June 2017, Opened 29 June 2017, Closed 19 May 2018 at the West End Gielgud Theatre in London
Sam Mendes' production of Jez Butterworth's new play The Ferryman in London
Rural Derry, 1981. The Carney farmhouse is a hive of activity with preparations for the annual harvest. A day of hard work on the land and a traditional night of feasting and celebrations lie ahead. But this year they will be interrupted by a visitor.
Directed by Sam Mendes with designs by Rob Howell, lighting by Peter Mumford and music and sound by Nick Powell.
This production transfers to London's West End following an acclaimed sold-out run at the Royal Court Theatre (Previewed 24 April 2017, Opened 3 May 2017, Closed 20 May 2017).
The original West End cast (up to Saturday 7 October 2017) featured Paddy Considine, Laura Donnelly and Genevieve O'Reilly along with Bríd Brennan, Turlough Convery, Fra Fee, Tom Glynn-Carney, Stuart Graham, Gerard Horan, Carla Langley, Des McAleer, Conor MacNeill, Rob Malone, Dearbhla Molloy, Eugene O'Hare and Niall Wright.
When this production opened at the Royal Court Theatre in May 2017, Ann Treneman in the Times hailed it as being "a serious, seriously good, grown-up play... it is something special." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times said "it's a stunning piece of writing: teeming with life; haunted by death... a tapestry of beautifully detailed performances... It's not flawless - it's too long and occasionally contrived - but this is a magnificent new play that uses, brilliantly, the vitality of live theatre to express the deadly legacy of violence." Henry Hitchibgs in the London Evening Standard praised it as being "a triumphant show... a feast of intricate storytelling, it's absorbing, soulful and ultimately shattering." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "The Ferryman serves up the full Irish, with director Sam Mendes bringing it to table with élan and a crack ensemble... As good as Jerusalem? Perhaps not, but that's beside the point. Miss this and you've missed a marvel." Michael Billington in the Guardian described it as being "a rich, serious, deeply involving play about the shadows of the past and the power of silent love... if Butterworth's engrossing and haunting play tells us anything, it is that the violent past can no more be suppressed than the private passions that we are afraid to articulate." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper though that, "running at three hours 20 minutes, this is a richly absorbing and emotionally abundant play, directed with detailed humane mastery by Sam Mendes... The piece is not as original as Jerusalem, but it has the feel of unearthed, instant classic." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented how "Ulster's agony, sectarian violence cascading down the generations, is caught lyrically in Jez Butterworth's new tragedy The Ferryman."
Jez Butterworth's West End credits include the plays Mojo which was revived by Ian Rickson at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2014 and Jerusalem starring Mark Rylance at the Apollo Theatre in 2010 and 2011. Sam Mendes' West End directing credits include the new stage musical version of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Drury Lane 2013; Shakespeare's Richard III starring Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic Theatre in 2011; Shakespeare's The Tempest and As You Like It both starring Stephen Dillane at the Old Vic Theatre in 2010; Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale starring Ethan Hawke at the Old Vic Theatre in 2009; David Hare The Blue Room starring Nicole Kidman at the Donmar Warehouse in 1998; the acclaimed 1994 revival of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! at the London Palladium; and Jim Cartwright's The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice starring Alison Steadman and Jane Horrocks at the Aldwych Theatre in 1992.
"Jez Butterworth explored an idea of a mythical England in his most celebrated play, Jerusalem. In his latest play, The Ferryman, he casts an equally sharp and idiosyncratic gaze on Ireland, specifically Northern Ireland at the height of The Troubles... For all the violence of the play, both real and implicit, what distinguishes it is a deep humanity. Every character, including the craven priest, simple-minded English labourer and IRA supremo, is richly rounded. The writing is honoured by the acting of the entire cast in Sam Mendes's exquisitely detailed production." The Sunday Express
"In this play about a long-awaited reckoning, the structure is winning, marshalling a vast cast into scenes that take place off stage or are left hanging: a harvest about to happen, a feast interrupted, a funeral cruelly delayed. Sam Mendes directs with apparent leisure but masterly attention, tugging at the threads, planting the plot's needling hints and twists with beautiful precision... Sam Mendes also takes the script's cuteness and hugs it close. The whole family has a chance to display their quirks in the opening scene, like an unending variety bill. There are old biddies and tiny tots, all swearing adorably... Still, The Ferryman is richly absorbing, its plot kinked and ample, its writing generous - everyone gets a story, a joke and a speech that lets you glimpse their soul. Butterworth is always good on unloved sons and lads desperate to be men; he here also writes better women than previously." The Sunday Times
"Jez Butterworth's new play starts with the discovery of a body. For ten years Seamus Carney has been lying in a bog near the Irish border. Throughout that time his wife Caitlin has been living with Carney's brother Quinn and his seven children in a warmly chaotic Armagh farmhouse while upstairs Quinn's wraith-like wife languishes in bed. But as the Carney family gather to celebrate the day of the harvest, this other, uglier harvest from Northern Ireland's bloody soil cannot be ignored... It's easily the best new play of the year and arguably as mighty as Butterworth's 2009 smash hit Jerusalem. Where that play exuberantly summoned the unquiet souls of a mythical rural England, this one does something similar for Northern Ireland but this time through the concrete political context of 1981. Bobby Sands is on hunger strike, Margaret Thatcher is on the radio and the IRA are on the streets. Paddy Considine is tremendous as Quinn, the ex-IRA member and committed family man struggling to suppress both a violent past and a treacherous love for Donnelly's bright-eyed Caitlin. Butterworth is as interested in the future as he is the past." The Metro
The Ferryman in London at the Gielgud Theatre previewed from 24 June 2014, opened on 8 July 2014 and closed on 19 May 2018