John B Keane's most famous play is set in a rural Ireland where the local publican is also the local auctioneer. Most of the action takes place in Flanagan's Bar, with the all-seeing comic drunk The Bird O'Donnell (Brendan Conroy) and the publican's long-suffering wife Maimie (Derbhle Crotty) the star turns in Joe Dowling's new production. Apprehension builds as we wait for the pub doors to burst open with the arrival of The Bull McCabe. Brian Dennehy (left), his bulky presence clad in a stained overcoat, exudes a degree of menace as the ferocious farmer, though on the night the Kerry accent got the better of him. His brooding son Tadhg (Garrett Lombard) is a chip off that angry block. Naturally, The Bull erupts on discovering that the four-acre field he's rented for grazing is now to be auctioned by tight-lipped widow Maggie Butler, with the likely next owner being a blow-in from England. You just know that that bloody field will be the death of someone. Bosco Hogan cameos as the bishop with all the authority such a figure demands, lecturing his flock on the culture of silence that has built up over a heinous crime. Hmmm.
Parallels are suggested between the hunger for land then and the greed displayed during the recent property boom. But the play feels somewhat dated in an Ireland that has moved on ? those of a less romantic eye may not feel nostalgia for that 1965 setting. Towards the end, when a distraught Maimie ruefully says she's going "on her holidays again", it transpires that her brief escape is merely shorthand for her being pregnant with her 10th child.
The Field runs at the Olympia until 13 February before touring to INEC Killarney and The Royal Theatre, Castlebar