The Ferryman

Date 11th June 2022
Society Harlequin Players Club
Venue The Harlequin Theatre, Northwich
Type of Production Play
Director Yvette Owen
Written By Jez Butterworth


Author: Joe Clarke

I was delighted to return to the Harlequin Theatre last week to review their 2022 season finale: Jez Butterworth’s West End sensational play, The Ferryman! Having auditioned for the West End version, I was really looking forward to seeing this play once again. This play is a big undertaking, not only having a mixture of adult and child actors, but telling a story through complex characters, using colourful language and trying to perfect the Northern Irish accent. Directed by NODA award winner Yvette Owen, it’s fair to say that this play was in safe hands. There were many wonderful moments throughout this production which allowed the actors to convey subtext and heighten the tension through body language and moments of stillness. Unfortunately, there are also things which could’ve been altered to increase the pace of the production. Having a first act at around 2 hour 20 mins means that the audience (some of whom were children) are sitting for far too long. For me, there were opportunities to cut the script down, especially during some of the big monologues, and increase the pace in the whole family scenes by having the actors speak over each other slightly, like Irish families do in read life. This may have helped slightly with the overall pace. Having said that, I really loved the moments of stillness and silence to convey emotion and reaction. Whilst I commend the efforts to try and convey any accent from Northern Ireland, on the whole, the accents were way off and far too Southern Irish for the most part. I also question the pronunciation of the character of Oisin. I heard many different versions of this pronunciation.

From an acting and storytelling point of view, this production was brilliant! Set in the kitchen of the Carney farmhouse, this static set was another character in itself. I commend the set and props team for your OUTSTANDING work in making this set come alive! I loved the direction of the opening Carney household scene in which the character Caitlin made jam on toast for everyone, and each actor ate the food which made the whole scene natural and believable. I also loved the direction of the opening scene of the play, which set the tone from the beginning with the lighting enhancing the tone. I loved the naturalism throughout, including the subtleties and nuances brought, particularly from the adult females. The final scene is also a hard one to get right, but it was delivered beautifully. Yvette Owen has done a wonderful job in bringing life into this play and her hard work is commendable.

The lighting design enhanced the overall feel, providing shadows to create tension and providing Sundown’s and sunrises to portray the passing of time.

Whilst the costumes were not in-keeping of the time period, they didn’t distract from story or character.

Quinn Carney, the head of the Carney farm was brilliantly played by Adrian Grace. Adrian’s Northern Irish accent was actually quite good, and I really believed the connection between Owen and Caitlin. Adrian was well cast in this role and had a good amount of gravitas needed.

Sian Weedon was wonderful as Caitlin Carney. It was a pleasure to witness Sian’s subtleties and nuances throughout and I adored the way in which she used her physicality to convey emotion – a fantastic performance, with a great accent to boot!

I adore the character of Aunt Pat as she is such a vital role in this play. I loved the harshness that Andrea Jones brought to Pat. Her words spewed like venom off her tongue which made the character more interesting and intriguing.

John Booth’s version of Pat was a little too over-acted for me. I would’ve preferred a more subtle performance. John also had a few hiccups with the words too sadly. I liked some of the humour that John brought, which was appreciated.

Aunt Maggie is a hard role to play but Vanessa Duffy was believable. I liked the way in which this character was portrayed as I suppose she is the narrator of the whole piece in a way. Well done to Vanessa who was well cast.

I loved watching the subtleties of reactions that Nicola Holland brought to the role of Mary Carney. I enjoyed the tension that she brought when talking about/to the character of Caitlin and I felt her unease. Lovely!

Mr Muldoon was played by Michael Gallagher. I felt that Michael rushed his words a lot which wasn’t in-keeping with (how I see) this character. However, Michael had a good energy and certainly looked the part.

I loved Harry Johnson as Frank Magennis and would’ve loved to have seen Harry in a bigger role. Harry’s accent was good also.

Stuart McNeil portrayed the character of Father Horrigan. Despite the fluctuating accent, I really got the awkwardness of the character who has a conflicting choice to make. The storyline and tension were prevalent.

Tom Kettle – the only Englishman in the script was brilliantly played by David Lee. David was very commanding in this role, and this was a brilliant showcase of his talent. I loved the vocality that David brought which impacted on the overall character. A great performance throughout.

There are far too many other (youth) actors for me to mention by name, but each played their roles well and each positively impacted on the storyline and production.  If I may however mention Joshua Besso, who played Shane Corcoran, who impressed with storytelling, accent and stage presence.

Congratulations to all involved in this production. Putting on a play of this magnitude is no mean feat and I commend Harlequin Players for even attempting it in the first place. It may be prudent to link with a dialect coach in future productions to try and perfect the accents, as they tend to hinder the naturalistic line delivery. I would also look at cutting the dialogue that doesn’t hinder plot, wherever appropriate to production and copyright. Well done to Yvette Owen for your vision and bravery on a wonderful production.

I thank Harlequin Players for their hospitality and wish them all the very best for their next production(s) of ‘Two Wits To Woo’ and ‘Lockdown in Northwich’ in September 2022.