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Vaines, S. (2018). The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth directed by Sam Mendes. Premiered at the Royal Court Theatre London, 24th April 2017. Transferred to the Gielgud Theatre 20th June 2017. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 8(1):88-90.

(2018). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 8(1):88-90

The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth directed by Sam Mendes. Premiered at the Royal Court Theatre London, 24th April 2017. Transferred to the Gielgud Theatre 20th June 2017

Review by:
Stella Vaines

Jez Butterworth's eagerly awaited new play is a richly absorbing experience. Set in county Armagh, Northern Ireland, in 1981, when the republican prisoners in the Maze prison were on hunger strike and political tensions were running high, it is a compelling family drama that has mesmerised packed audiences for three and a half hours. This is an ambitious play dealing with universal themes, skilfully confined within the dramatic unities, as it all takes place in one room in the space of less than twenty-four hours.

A brief opening prologue acquaints the audience with the fact that the body of a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) activist who “disappeared” ten years ago has been unearthed in a peat bog just over the Irish border, and now formally identified. The current IRA boss, Muldoon, who is keen to prevent the man's family from asking questions about what happened, has summoned their priest to a meeting, threatening him, so he is forced divulge the secrets of his confessional. The scene then switches to a country kitchen in which a couple, Quinn Carney and his sister-in-law, Caitlin Carney, are smoking, sharing a bottle of Bushmills, and playing Connect Four. The sexual chemistry between these two, who are wonderfully portrayed by Paddy Considine and Laura Donnelly, is quite electric as they don blindfolds, flirt as they continue to play the game, and then find each other and start dancing to the music on the radio. We, the audience, share an intensely intimate moment, in which symbolically Caitlin has to alert Quinn to the fact that he has set the lamp on fire, and in which she allows herself to dream for a moment that “she has won.

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