Skip to main content

A GHOST WITHIN A GHOST: REVIEW OF JEZ BUTTERWORTH'S THE FERRYMAN


SPOILER WARNING:

Almost the last line of the play - in a shocking shit-fan whirlwind - gives it away - "what will we do"? Far from being merely a stereotypically Irish problem play in the shadow of the gunman, or the ploughman and the stars, Jez Butterworth's bizarre post-modern masterplay directed by Bond helmer Sam Mendes, is all about stories, and how they are told - often very badly.

This is a play of half-remembered poems, dementia-fuelled fairy stories, and lies and demi-lies, all spoken in the name of attempting to find a strand of sense and narrative in the melee of time and history - we are reminded that even Darius interrupted war to let the harvest come in, so potent was the symbolism of that ritual.

There is the harvest story, and the boys' stories, and the story of Jesus on the cross, and the stories of love at the GPO... all the stories in the play end badly, or are told badly. Of course, it is also about feast and famine, sowing what you reap, and ghosts becoming visible...

But mainly, it is a pastiche of poetry and poetical tropes. It is astonishing how many references, indeed shaping measures, within the play, take their bearings directly from the great poets of The Troubles.

Firstly, the victim found in the bog, perfectly, preserved, is pure Seamus Heaney - and the victim's name is: Seamus. And who is the man who comes after? Why, Mr Muldoon... That's not all - the title is based on a reading from Virgil... which is actually reminiscent of Heaney's poetry and  classical focus on the dead, and burial (such as at Thebes).

Even Tom Kettle recites a poem - ironically by Sir Walter Raleigh, a British imperialist. But Kettle's name comes from a mostly-forgotten Irish poet. Moreover, the mother's ghostly presence and absence and name exactly mirrors that figure in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night - whose structure this play emulates, and whose echoes of ghosts and fog and the past heaving into view are endemic here. Yeats' poems and songs are referenced throughout...

In fact, watching this play one becomes incredulous, excited or enraged, at the multiple acts of homage/pastiche that riddles the text like bullet-fire.

Surely, this is intentional - surely, what is at hand is a rough Ur-text, a big shambling beast with the spoor of the Yeti, screaming - all your stories of empire and Ireland are just that - stories - show me where the bodies are buried, and dispense with the story-telling... words have never solved a thing in Ireland... nor love, nor violence... so - what do we do?
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

THE BEVERLY PRIZE SUPER SHORTLIST FINALISED!

Dr Bruce Meyer, a significant Canadian poet and writer, will be the final judge for this year's Beverly Prize For International Writing - the impressive super shortlist of 18 international poets and writers is announced below.
Any original unpublished manuscript, in English, by anyone living anywhere in the world, writing in any genre or on any topic, prose, non-fiction or poetry (even drama) is eligible, making it arguably the world's most eclectic "broad church" literary scouting prize. Last year's debut winner was Sohini Basak (her book is being launched in Bloomsbury July 5th, 2018).

The rules of the prize stipulate that any author chosen for the shortlist agrees to accept publication with Eyewear if judged to be the final winner; and may not be entered into other competitions at this final stage of adjudication.
Bruce Meyer is author of more than 60 books of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, literary journalism, and portraiture. He was winner of the Gwendolyn…

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…

THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand