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John Ferguson

By St John Ervine

20th May - 14th June 2014
Finborough Theatre

john ferguson

100 years after it was first written, Lightbox Theatre produces Ervine's seminal work

“We can’t understand everything. It’s no good trying to puzzle it all out. We must just have faith – that’s all. Just have faith.”

★★★★ WhatsOnStage


John Ferguson lives by the word of God, and believes there is a reason for everything. His wife, Sarah lives by the earthly reality around her. The family is on the brink of eviction from their farm, as a result of John’s ailing health and age.

When a local man makes a proposition to their daughter that will save them all, there begins a spiral of events that will test John’s faith and his family to their limits...

Ervine’s powerful tragedy was written in 1914 and first performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 1915. The play was subsequently performed in 1919 at The Theatre Guild in New York where it was originally scheduled for just five performances – it eventually ran for more than 130, putting the Guild on the Broadway map and saving it from bankruptcy. It was last produced in England at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith in 1920. Ervine was later a theatre critic for the Observer.

W.B. Yeats said of John Ferguson in a letter to St John Ervine – "A fragment of life, fully expounded and without conventionality or confusion…the best play you have done"


Paul Lloyd. Ciaran McIntyre. Zoe Rainey. Paul Reid. Veronica Quilligan. Alan Turkington. David Walshe.


“St John Ervine's powerful 1915 classic, now receiving its first English revival since 1920 in Emma Faulkner's strongly cast, atmospheric production.” Paul Taylor, The Independent

"A powerful portrait of the strengths and weaknesses of an iron faith ….There is something of real substance in a play that shows how, in a religious culture, biblical texts can be used either to vindicate or deplore acts of class revenge.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“This production suggests that 19th century-style melodrama can still carry power if played with full faith in the genre and the emotional reality.” Gerald Berkowitz, The Stage

"a rare opportunity to see a long-neglected masterpiece of Irish theatre; a family tragedy of crippling debt and financial exploitation to which modern times have given a new relevance and meaning" WhatsonStage

"Terrific. A rock would have wept." The Church Times

“Great performances.” Daisy Bowie-Sell, Time Out

"On this evidence you hope there are more rediscoveries to be made. For all that could make this archaic, what is uncovered here isn’t a dusty museum piece but a moving and truthful drama. Cleverly directed and well performed, with a tragic and moving momentum, this is an outstanding production of a powerful work.” Robbie Lumsden, Bargain Theatreland

“The direction keeps this classic fresh and though we’re clearly in a different era, the story doesn’t feel dated, it draws you in and doesn't let go.” The Good Review