The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth

I was lucky enough to see Jez Butterworth’s new play The Ferryman last month at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It was a highly anticipated production, particularly due to the success of his previous writing, and the prowess of a performance at the Royal Court. Nevertheless, this play exceeded my expectations: I thought it was brilliant.

As I settled down in my seat before the performance started, I was worried the writing would be too profound or self-indulgent (I’m not sure why), but actually it wasn’t at all. Luckily I know a fair bit about the history of the Irish Troubles and the IRA, the context of the play, which I felt helped me get into the plot and characters quickly – although I think it still would have been understandable and easy to follow even without any knowledge. The history of Ireland is itself a fascinating topic, and was incorporated brilliantly into a plot that had me always wondering what would happen next. It was some of the best playwriting I’ve seen all year – yep, Butterworth yet again has written a great play!

The production itself was brilliant too, in which I was especially drawn to the gorgeous set! With the play all occurring in one setting (except the opening scene), a lot of time was put into the single set. It was the attention to small details that caught my eye most – such as the children’s drawings pinned to the walls of the stage – making it feel like a real family home. The stage was a big space, which was important for a play with such a large cast, which made it look smaller. Yet, the production made the most of its size  just by moving the furniture around, as well using the stairs for characters to enter and exit, and a space to stand when not directly involved with the action.


The performances given by the actors were exceptional too, particularly for such a large cast with so many very young actors (who all did great jobs giving some very believable performances). Paddy Considine (Quinn Carney) and Laura Donnelly (Caitlin Carney), as the key protagonists, were especially impressive : it was emotional and passionate, as well as mysterious (in keeping with the plot). What was notably impressive to me was all the casts’ Irish accents – although many of the actors had some sort of Irish heritage or background, I actually thought that all of them were Irish (which wasn’t the case!).

This was a brilliant play, and I’m so grateful that I got to see it in its original form at the Royal Court Theatre – and on its last day too! It has now transferred to Central London in the West End, and I would highly recommend going to see it for some truly excellent theatre.


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