The Olympia's current production is John B. Keane's The Field, I saw it on Friday night. The Olympia actually staged the original production in 1965 so it's in a sense a homecoming for the play. The story concerns the sale of a 4 acre field somewhere in the south west of Ireland. One family has had the grazing rights for several years and they feel they should be able to buy it but the owner puts to an auction and drama ensues. I won't spoil the plot but it is based on real life events in Kerry in the 1950s. Irish-American Brian Dennehy is the big name, playing the Bull McCabe. Dennehy previously starred in the US debut of Brian Friel's Translations in 1995. He puts in a strong performance and you wouldn't guess his American origin from his accent in the play - a rare enough occurrence for those of us familiar with usual butchering of our accent. The main set is Mick Flanagan's pub and auction house. Derbhle Crotty puts in a great performance as his long suffering wife, Mamie, a former town beauty now stuck with 9 children and a life of drudgery. Praise too goes to the actor playing the Bishop, the end of whose sermon gave me an urge to bless myself, which I suppressed! I really enjoyed the play, despite having studied and hated it in school. It runs over 2 hours not including the interval. It continues at The Olympia until 12th February and then does a few dates at the INEC in Kerry. Definitely worth seeing, but spend the most you can afford on getting good seats, or a box.
I can't credit the Bishop by name because the Olympia website doesn't list the actors by character. In fact, the Olympia doesn't have a website: it has a page on mcd.ie which gives some details about the theatre/current play and links to Ticketmaster. Our party was in the Upper Circle - often called "the gods", which offers cheaper seats but a limited view of the stage. In fact, I'd wonder if you could see the stage at all from the top of it. It has unreserved seating so a large queue formed outside - reminiscent of getting on a Ryanair flight. The seating itself is old and tired, and legroom is almost non-existent, even for a 5ft 3-er like me. I heard anecdotally of people leaving this current production because they were uncomfortable and certainly a larger person might not even fit in the seats. I feel the whole theatre needs a major overhaul, with completely new seating, possibly reduced in capacity to allow more legroom, though the fact that they use it for concerts and other types of performances may conflict. Better still, settle on just what they want the Olympia to be: a theatre, a concert venue, a nightclub. They probably paid their big name actor a pile of money to come over and do the play. I'd be happy with an Irish actor and the leftover money spent on improving the theatre-going experience.
I set out to review the play and I've reviewed the theatre too. Dublin wouldn't be the same without the Olympia: I'd love to see it restored and improved.