I was lucky enough to be in the audience for the Machine Theatre Company's production of John B. Keane's The Field in the recently renovated TF Royal Theatre, Castlebar, on Tuesday night.
Despite having seen this work both on screen and on stage, Tuesday night’s performance had me totally absorbed.
The widow Maggie Butler (Gabrielle Hyland) decides to sell the field that her neighbour the ignorant bully, Bull McCabe (Mick Lally), has been renting annually. Bull holds the town of Carraigthomond in fear of him and is none too pleased when he hears the news. He considers the Field his by right and has no intention of paying the value of the property. He looks set to get his way until the Englishman, William Dee (Michael Patric understudied on the night due to illness), turns up and appears willing to offer a higher price. He plans to turn the field into a concrete factory, the very idea of which cuts to the Bull’s core, a surprising glimpse underneath the grim exterior.
Set in the 1920s it portrays a rural Ireland hungry for land. Even the undoubted power of the Church as portrayed in the Bishop’s (Gerry Walsh) diatribe from the pulpit cannot overcome the code of silence and fear. Mick Flanagan, the auctioneer and publican, is well played by Pascal Scott. Mick Lally as Bull gives a noteworthy performance even if it is always difficult to separate him from the role of Miley in Glenroe. The star of the night has got to be Bird O’Donnell played superbly by Brendan Conroy, but Mary McEvoy wife to Mick Flanagan and mother of nine is also superb.
The stage design and lighting were excellently augmented by old film reels depicting such events as the Corpus Christi procession. Dramatic tension, rage, fear, tortured emotions and despair are all portrayed convincingly and Mick Lally bestows incredible emotion to the surprising last line.
Michael Scott has directed another fine performance. Even if you’ve seen it before I urge you to go again – Saturday is the last night.