Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Field @ The Olympia

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.

8 comments:

  1. Entirely in agreement - excellent play, not so sure about the venue.

    I also felt that twitch in my right arm and resisted blessing myself and saying 'Amen' when the bishop finished his (very impressive) speech. :)

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  2. I saw it last night at the official opening and thought it was a great production. I really loved the set design and felt it was prob the best part. Great performances from both Brendan Conroy who played 'the Bird' and Crottie as 'Mamie'.

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  3. Bosco Hogan played the bishop. Derbhle Crotty was amazing as Maimie, what a fantastic sence of timing she has. The set was terrific too, but dear me Brian Dennehy? Are you kidding me? His accent was all over the place, he mummbled and I felt no real dread of him at all. I was so looking forward to this but was very disappointed.

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  4. Have just been to The Field and I thought all the Irish actors were excellent but Brian Dennehy? He did nothing for me, he had absolutely no stage presence and mumbled his way through his lines. I agree with the reviewer that I'd prefer if the money were spent on making the theatre more comfortable!

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  5. I saw The Field this week and had great seats in front row in The Circle. I thoroughly enjoy the play, Derbhle Crotty (Maimie) and Brendan Conroy (The Bird)were amazing. I thought that Brian Dennehy had great stage presence, I did at times find it hard to understand him, but this didn't in any way take away any of my enjoyment. I was really looking forward to the play and it didn't let me down. Obviously there could be improvement in the Olympia, the seating is tight and I'm only 5ft. The loos could do with a makeover.

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  6. I saw the production last night and agree completely about the sets and the Irish actors, both absolutely brilliant, I also agree with the comments about Brian Dennehy - he was the big draw, other than the play itself and I found he wasn't as threatening or as bullish as I thought he should have been. I would love to say that I heard/enjoyed all of Bosco Hogan's sermon but it was drowned out by a woman on the other side of the aisle in the circle digging into the bottom of her bag of crisps! The theatre is in serious need of a revamp, extremely cramped -thank God my 6'2" husband had some respite with an aisle seat - the fact that the bar is open throughout doesn't help, people are in and out, up and down the creaky passsageways, which drowned out the dialogue on some occasions, to the bar, and inevitably, the toilet. I felt sorry for anyone on the stage listening to all the noises coming from the audience- it would try the patience of a saint let alone an actor!!

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  7. i recently went to see it and thought brendan conroy was excellent but brian dennehy was average and eamon hunt was also superb thumbs up

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  8. cannot see how people were impressed by Dennehy's accent, it really irritated me and I thought Brendan Conroy outshone him by a mile, together with the rest of the irish cast. Maimie was a real treat and the set and effects were fab. pity that the big name failed to deliver. i could even see him as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman while he was on the stage, really disappointed. oh well!!

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