It is a tale of woe – rather, whoa, which points a deft finger in our direction.

Here is Ben Brantley‘s review of the award-winning show for The New York Times before the production crossed the pond.

It’s a mighty full house that’s presided over by Quinn Carney, the divided Irish hero of Jez Butterworth’s “The Ferryman,” which burst open at the Royal Court Theater here on Wednesday night, where its run is already sold out. (It moves to the West End in June.) The fiercely gripping play in which Quinn, a father of seven, appears is every bit as crowded.

And I mean teeming — with characters, plot, secrets, confessions, clashes political and sexual, betrayals, murders, ballads, poems, dancing, drinking, wrestling and the wails of banshees, whose reality is not to be doubted. The terrific cast — led by Paddy Considine and directed with a racing pulse by Sam Mendes — numbers 21, and that’s not counting the baby, the rabbit and the goose. Like everything else in “The Ferryman,” those nonspeaking performers are indisputably alive.

Set in rural Northern Ireland in 1981, this latest offering from the author of “Jerusalem” also overflows with storytelling vitality, the kind that so holds the attention that three and a quarter hours seem to pass in the blink of an eye, albeit a bloodied and black one. Consider yourself well warned when a little girl, gleefully awaiting an oft-told tale by an ancient relative, chirps excitedly: “I love this one! It’s so violent!”

That scene exudes the hearthside warmth of a classic, bustling domestic comedy in which an extended family lives in contented close quarters and everybody chips in to help. Of course, in this clan, even the little ones swear like sailors on a bender.

And the yarns spun by old Aunt Maggie Far Away (Brid Brennan), who spends much of her time in a wordless trance that might be mistaken for senility, feature the dismemberment of faerie warriors and are steeped in an erotic longing for the golden lad she once loved from a distance, now long disappeared. “I swear to Christ,” she says sweetly to the little ones gathered at her feet, “I could have ridden that boy from here to Connemara.”

Like much of “The Ferryman,” Ms. Brennan’s character (right down to her name) would seem to be drawn with an exaggeration that borders on parody. But as he demonstrated in his astonishing “Jerusalem,” seen on Broadway in 2011, Mr. Butterworth specializes in making what might be too much from anybody else feel somehow exactly right.

Life as he portrays it is so expansive, only myth and melodrama can accommodate its dimensions. And under the expert guidance of Mr. Mendes, an acclaimed film director (“American Beauty,” “Skyfall”) returning to the stage with avid conviction, “The Ferryman” embraces and absorbs explosive contradictions of story and sensibility.

The play begins with a stark, sinister scene that scarcely prepares us for the richness of what follows. We’re on a grimy back street of Derry, where Father Horrigan (Gerard Horan), a country priest, has been dragged for a meeting with the notorious Mr. Muldoon (Stuart Graham), a lean man of elegant menace.

It seems the bound corpse of one of Horrigan’s parishioners, missing for a decade, has been found in a bog, and Muldoon wants the good father to carry the news to the dead man’s brother. That’s Quinn, whom we meet at home in the next scene, dancing wildly in the wee hours to the Rolling Stones with a woman we assume is his wife or a lover.

She’s not. Caitlin Carney (Laura Donnelly) is Quinn’s sister-in-law and the wife of the dead man. Don’t trust your first assumptions as you watch this play; don’t entirely discount them either.

Quinn’s household includes his bedridden wife, Mary (Genevieve O’Reilly); a married aunt and uncle, both called Pat (Dearbhla Malloy and Des McAleer); Caitlin’s teenage son, Oslin (Rob Malone); and a slow-witted handyman, Tom Kettle (John Hodgkinson), who was taken in as a child after being abandoned by his parents, who were (and this is crucial) British.

It is harvest day. There’s to be toiling in the fields and the kitchen, and drinking and feasting after. It would all be perfectly jolly, except for our niggling awareness of the shadows cast, by that opening scene with Mr. Malloy and by news of the fatal hunger strikes of Irish Republican Army prisoners in the Maze prison. That darkness thrums like a bass line.

“The Ferryman,” as you may have inferred, is Mr. Butterworth’s contribution to the literature of the conflict known as the Troubles, and on one level, it recalls Sean O’Casey’s epochal dramas of civil war from the 1920s. But Mr. Butterworth is digging beyond the tensions of political factionalism to uncover more atavistic impulses.

Like “Jerusalem,” which probed the British yearning for a lost mythic grandeur, “The Ferryman” portrays a people in thrall to millenniums of history, in ways they’re not always aware of. On the one hand, there’s the embittered Aunt Pat, who as a girl witnessed the death of her brother during the Easter Rebellion and can’t stop talking about it; on the other, there’s the fey Aunt Maggie, with her gossamer-spun stories of elfin wars and lost loves.