Review: The Field, Quarry Players, Limerick

I went to see The Field by the Quarry Players on Friday night last, February 10.
John B Keane’s play is a heady mix of comedy, tragedy and incisive social commentary. On its most basic level, it is about a farmer’s desire to own the field he has toiled over for years and secure the livelihood of future generations. An outsider threatens that ambition and ‘Bull’ McCabe responds with terrifying force. Everyone around him is pulled into a maelstrom of fear and harsh truths. What will be left in the aftermath?
It’s a powerful play, not least for the portrayal of hunger for land but also for its depiction of the class divide in 1960s rural Ireland.It is also loosely based on an actual case in the fifties, which shocked the country. Taking on possibly Keane’s most complex play is a bold choice for an amateur company and I think it was obvious that a lot of effort went into it. Director, John A. Murphy’s experience in acting and stagecraft, made for a mostly tight performance.
The set—most of the action taking place in an authentic Flanagan’s Pub—was excellent. This was disguised to great effect for the field and church scenes. The sound and lighting design were also very good. The device of the wireless playing music to establish the era and certain scenes was clever. The striking lighting on the closing scene brought the show to a dramatic close. Credit is due to John Ryan (set); Loren Hartnett (sound) and Jay Kavanagh (lights).
The ensemble was good as a whole but there were a few stand-out performances. Paul McCarthy was convincing as the domineering Bull—important because the entire play hinges on him. The farmer is a frightening, vicious bully but when McCarthy let the façade slip, he showed an equally pitiable figure with a skewed sense of social injustice. Beena Day as Maimie Flanagan was great as well. Her feisty demeanour and strong comic delivery brought the character to life, particularly in the closing scenes. As a mother she has a terrible moral dilemma between protecting her family and doing the right thing. The audience got a real sense of this anguish.
Jaime King as Leamy Flanagan did well portraying the teenager tortured by his conscience and struggling to understand the cruelties of the world. Tim Evans gave an energetic performance as Bird O’Donnell. The other cast members included: Finbarr Stanton, Jim Deery, Mark O’Connor, Maeve O’Donovan, Noel Dillon, Kieran McAteer, Jimmy Leonard, Bernie Doyle and Jon Gibbons.
The Field is a true Irish classic. I think the Quarry Players staged it with sensitivity and enthusiasm.
The Field continues from Wednesday, February 15 at 8pmand will continue nightly until Saturday 18. Tickets are €12/15/17; concessionsavailable. They can be booked on 061-319866 or www.belltable.ie.

The Field at the Belltable this weekend/next week

The Quarry Players will eschew the boards and tread the grass with The Field, when they perform the John B. Keane classic this weekend and next week at the Belltable Arts Centre.
It opened last night (February 9) and will play tonight, Friday 10 and Saturday 11. It will then take a break until next Wednesday, February 15 at 8pm and will continue nightly until Saturday 18.
The Field is the Kerry playwright’s best known and most powerful play. It became more renowned after the film adaptation won Richard Harris an Oscar nomination for his iconic performance as ‘The Bull’ McCabe. According to the description: “The Field is astory of land and one man’s need to own it. Set in 1965 and based on true events, Keane’s play tells the story of McCabe and the field he has worked for many years. The play examines what occurs when his livelihood is threatened; a livelihood that is his very survival. Violence ensues and a community is caught between truth and fear. Poetic in its depiction of a man and his ties to the land, it is a play rich in the humour and tragedy.”
I saw an excellent production of the play last year in the Olympia Theatre, which starred Hollywood great, Brian Dennehy. The play is very different from the film—which leans heavily on the tragic elements and changes the ending (among other things ) drastically. The play is lighter and its subtleties creep up on you to create the emotional impact.
The Quarry Players have been a fixture on the city’s theatre scene since 1969 and have developed a reputation for quality productions. The play is directed by a founder member of Island Theatre Company, John Murphy. Quarry performed The Field  25 years ago and hopefully, will do it justice again this time around.
Tickets are €12/15/17; concessions available. They can be booked on 061-319866 or www.belltable.ie.