The Field – Gaiety Theatre – Review


John B Keane’s The Field – Gaiety Theatre – Review by M. Quinn
23 April 2015 – 30 May 2015

The Widow Maggie Butler has decided to sell her field. It is up for public auction with Mick Flanagan in charge of the sale. The Bull McCabe has been renting the field for the past five years, grazing his cattle and cultivating the land and feels entitled to it. He is not prepared to pay the asking price, but thinks no one will go up against him in the local community. When an outsider in the form of Galway man William Dee decides to bid on the land, the Bull is pushed to fight for what he thinks is rightfully his.

The Field was first performed in the Olympia in Dublin in 1965 with Ray McAnally as “The Bull”. The part has become one of the most famous roles in Irish theatre and the performance of Richard Harris in the Jim Sheridan film adaptation the one against which all others will be measured. Michael Harding has a different take on it from Harris, moving away from the ferocity and simmering violence to a slightly more controlled version of the character. This subtle change in direction may annoy some but he has brought something new to the part. The Bird is the other pivotal part and it is played by Mark O’Regan with a delicate tragicomedy touch. While he brings much levity to the proceedings, he is a man treated with contempt by the Bull.

The play deals with the fixation of the Irish people on land which is still evident to this day. It also explores life in small town Ireland and the role of the church in the local community. While much has changed in Ireland in the intervening years, the play is more than a historical piece and will resonate with anyone that has spent time in rural Ireland.

There is a large ensemble cast, with many of the minor characters catching the eye, particularly Fiona Bell and Ian Lloyd Anderson. There are moments of humour which contrast well against the violence and greed. All the individual elements are strong in this production but while it is enjoyable, it is somehow less than the sum of its parts. It is still worth seeing for some fine performances and for the various insights into small town Ireland.

The Field – 50th anniversary production – Tickets from €22.50 – The Gaiety Theatre

Michael Harding as the Bull McCabe
Aidan McArdle as William Dee
Ian Lloyd Anderson as Tadhg
Catherine Byrne as Maggie Butler
Geoff Minogue as Father Murphy
Maria McDermottroe as Mrs McCabe
Arthur Riordan as Mick Flanagan
Fiona Bell as Maimie Flanagan
Stephen O’Leary as Leamy Flanagan
Mark O’Regan as The Bird
Conor Delaney as Sergeant
Terry Byrne as Dandy Murphy
Seamus O’Rourke as The Bishop

Directed by Padraic McIntyre

Liam Doona – Set Designer

Kate Moylan – Costume Designer

Eamon Fox – Lighting Designer.

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