The show premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in April 2017 where it was the fastest-selling play in the venue’s history. Later that year, it transferred to the Gielgud Theatre in London, and in October 2018, it opened on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
In addition to being an exceptionally fast-selling show, the Ferryman proved its popularity by winning the 2017 Evening Standard Theatre Awards of Best Play, Best Director, and Emerging Talent Award. In 2018, it won three WhatsOnStage Awards and received seven Olivier awards and nominations.
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The Ferryman is celebrated as a beautiful portrayal of the struggles of average people in the midst of “the Troubles” of Northern Ireland – the years from 1916 until the modern day when a guerilla war raged between the Catholics and Protestants of the country. These years included many harrowing events such as the separation of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the formation of the Irish Republican Army (or IRA) to fight for Catholic civil rights, the arrest and torture of hundreds of protestors, hunger strikes that ended in death, and multiple bombings. Butterworth’s idea for the play was inspired by Laura Donnelly’s real-life uncle who disappeared during this period.
At the time of the play, 1981, hunger strikes were going strong, and the previous several years had seen some of the most intense strife between protestors and an openly unsympathetic government. A famous quote by Margaret Thatcher, the leader of England and Northern Ireland at the time, condemning the IRA’s violence actually served to inspire support for their cause around the world. Involvement in the IRA, as Quinn had done, meant having been risked everything for what one believed in, and would have made it hard to adjust to the casual life of a farmer again while the conflict still raged on.
The Ferryman Experience
A moving story of love and family in the midst of a culture at war, the Ferryman is a profound play that will have you laughing one minute and your heart near breaking the next. A beautiful insight into the daily life of average people in the midst of one of the most tragic conflicts of the western world in the past century, be sure to not miss the Ferryman the next time it’s at a theater near you!