But since mid-February, a baker's dozen of American actors have been brought in take on roles originated by their visiting colleagues, most notably to Broadway fans, Brian d'Arcy James and Shuler Hensley. The year is , and at Quinn's farmhouse it's time for the annual Harvest Day celebration with feasting and dancing to celebrate the annual bounty.
Ten years earlier, Quinn's brother Seamus , suspected to be an informant, mysteriously disappeared. With Mary taken to spending her days in bed, claiming to suffer from various viruses, Caitlin has become the mother figure of the home and she and Quinn have developed unspoken romantic feelings for each other. What the audience knows that the Carney's don't is that Seamus' body has been found and identified and that IRA strongman Muldoon Ralph Brown has threatened Father Horrigan Charles Dale to use the information he knows about Quinn from taking his confessions to ensure that the circumstances surrounding his brother's death are kept secret.
Butterworth takes his time unfolding details of his plot, focusing more on how a continuing political issue affects family dynamics spanning three generations, leading up to a tense and violent conclusion, so much of the play involves the everyday interactions between an assortment of well-drawn characters.
Hensley, a man of imposing stature who has warmed many audience hearts playing gentle characters He won a Tony Award for playing the most sympathetic Jud Fry imaginable. Another Broadway favorite enhancing the company is Fred Applegate , charming as family philosopher Uncle Patrick. When the play begins in the wee hours of the morning, the stillness of the house murmurs as calm before a storm audiences never see coming. When young Mercy bursts into the stone-walled kitchen, she blows the horn and sets off a domino effect of the Carney family preparing for their annual harvest feast which will also welcome the arrival of their Corcoran cousins—more children.
As more and more offspring bound down the rickety staircase centerpiece of the modest farm home—in an ideally modest design by Rob Howell—Mendes and his cast capture the essence of what it means to be an Irish family, close-quartered and close-knit. As James Joseph Niall Wright , the eldest, shoulders the responsibility of helping his father around the farm, he also does his best to keep his brother Michael, 15 Fra Fee in line. Oisin, 14 Rob Malone keeps to himself—the eighth child in a crowded house.
The imaginary life in the upstairs, from whence the kids pour like an endless clown car, informs as much as the action downstairs. Yet, these actors keep the play grounded. The entire show revolves around the family dynamic. What was the audition process like?
Did you do familial chemistry tests? It was a general chat about how we responded to reading the play and our own experience of being Irish people. We were just telling the story of the play. And from that Sam and Jez were able to see how this family makeup was presented and where that chemistry was. Quite a lot of us were cast after that read-through. We were just reading the play. Was it the same for you who joined the production in New York? Willow: We had a regular audition process.
We did a self-tape and then the second time we had two callbacks. Brooklyn: They would take different kids and pair them with different kids.
Willow: Brooklyn and I went in for the first time. Michael: I know—at least for the boys—they took us in and asked us to do our dialect. Matilda: I did my first and second auditions myself and then my third one we were paired with people—I was not paired with any of you guys. Then I moved on to the last audition and we had Deb Hecht, our dialect coach, for the last two auditions.
Does it help to be around everyone who came over from the Royal Court to get the accent in your ear? All: Yes! Definitely helps. In rehearsal, did you all do any bonding exercises? We just rehearsed the play.
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Willow: We should have done trust falls—that would have been so fun! Conor: I think it was a time constraint, as well. We had two weeks to get it all. Carla: There are 21 actors on the stage, so Sam was more focused on making sure no one was tripping over each other. Conor: Sam Mendes is a genius at casting. He can see compatibility, I think. He sees something in the way people fit together. There is a real family feel. There is a lot going on in the offstage world, upstairs in the Carney house. Carla: I see her as a mini mother.
In the spare time she has to herself, she would definitely be reading any pop magazine she can get her hands and listening to her favourite singer Adam Ant. In backstage life, because it is a long show, in whose dressing room does everyone tend to congregate? Does that just mean the two of you are most loved? You should take it as a compliment, Rob. Conor: They actually do have the only iPhone chargers in the building! Rob: That is a lie.
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Who ends up backstage at the same time? Conor: That continues outside the theatre. Fra: At the top of Act 2 all the boys enter together, so we all have that moment together. Conor: Me and you, Michael, have a lot of time together. Do you feel like a family? All: For sure. Willow: Brooklyn and Matilda and I fight like sisters.
We bicker a lot. Brooklyn: Sometimes. Matilda: A lot. And I tell them who wins the fight. Niall: The referee. All of your characters are quite distinct, who among you is the most like their character? Rob: Niall Wright. Fra: Niall Wright is JJ.
BWW Review: Brian d'Arcy James, Shuler Hensley Lead New Arrivals To Jez Butterworth's THE FERRYMAN
Do you feel that way Niall? So, clearly, eldest is a bit different. The distinct characters and the relationships You talk about when we come down the stairs you know who everybody is.
Fra: And the casting. Everyone is really well-suited to their characters. Aside from the casting, what is it about the rehearsal space that Sam creates that helps you identify so easily with them? Conor: Sam has an incredible ability at identifying what each individual actor needs and he will note to their needs, to their personality, to how they take things.
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