Oscar E Moore

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THE FERRYMAN – A Family Affair – Northern Ireland 1981

October 27th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore

Undoubtedly those of you interested in the latest openings on and off Broadway have heard all the positive hoopla over the multiple award winning play imported from London – THE FERRYMAN written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Sam Mendes.

And you know what, it’s all so very well deserved.  Beautifully written with sharp dialogue.  Staged magnificently.  With a backdrop of political strife to frame the action.  A vanished body of ten years suddenly found pickled in a bog with a bullet to the head.  And its repercussions to the large and extended Carney family.  It’s a fascinating, honest and true to life representation of human relationships and the sadness of love.

THE FERRYMAN is a must see production.  Even for those who agree with W. C. Fields that to act with children or animals is a no-no.  Not here.  For here we get a live goose who has escaped from her pen seeking to avoid being the main course of the Harvest Day dinner, a tiny rabbit and a real live human nine month old baby boy who smiles and gurgles right on cue and a slew of Carney children and their cousins – the Corcorans.

Despite this cuteness there is a feeling of melancholy and despair, of forlorn love, of missed opportunities to express the love felt from various characters that permeates the over three hour long production that goes by so quickly that you actually want to see more of this family as they continue their lives despite all the distractions and troubles surrounding the household.  Go.  Meet the Carneys.  Once you do some of the images will be etched on your mind forever.

Aunt Pat (Dearbhla Molloy) stiff as a rod sitting and listening to the latest report of the hunger strike deaths with her constant cigarette and whiskey that allows the truthful barbs that fly from her mouth to both sting and amuse.

Aunt Maggie Far Away (Fionnula Flanagan) wheelchair bound and lost in her memories and reveries yet coming to lucid life at times – especially to reminisce and enlighten the young girls of the clan of the beautiful lad she loved who loved another.  Salty language included.

And the dancing and the drinking and the laughter and the shouting and the fear from the sinister IRA honcho Muldoon (Stuart Graham – his very presence evokes shivers to one and all) as he attempts to keep certain facts secret about the IRA informant’s body that has been found.  That of Seamus Carney.  Brother of Quinn Carney – a forceful and eloquent Paddy Considine.

Seamus’ wife the frustrated Caitlin (Laura Donnelly) has lived without closure for ten years – not knowing about Seamus’ whereabouts; moving in with her son Oisin (Rob Malone) to her brother-in-law Quinn’s farmhouse sharing with his wife and seven children who spends most of her life upstairs in bed dealing with a mysterious virus.  Caitlin has taken over the wifely duties of the ill Mary (Genevieve O’Reilly) – everything except giving birth to all the children.

Technically speaking nothing could be improved upon.  Set and costume designer (Rob Howell) Lighting (Peter Mumford) are excellent.  And there is a huge plus.  These actors know how to enunciate and project.  Even so, if you do not want to miss a single word and you well shouldn’t get yourself a set of headphones.  They are terrific.

And finally there is Tom Kettle (a magnificent Justin Edwards) – a charming farmhand who happens to be the odd Englishman in this Irish populace – a poet and a bit slow on the uptake.  He who distributes shiny apples and cuddles his tiny rabbit has one of the most heart wrenching and beautiful scenes in the entire production that reinforces the sorrow of love.

At the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.  Go.  Be transported and entranced by the Irish.  One 15 minute intermission.  One brief three minute pause following Act II.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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