IT IS never easy as a director to set about tackling one of the greats. The problem is that familiarity breeds contempt and all of that.
Thankfully for John Anthony Murphy, directing The Field for Quarry Players, John B Keane’s classic tale of land and power struggles and a community “caught between truth and fear” is as relevant as it ever was - maybe more so.
“I was worried about the Field being rooted in its time, that you can’t do much with it, it is rigid, and I had to decide if I was interested,” says Murphy, a founding member of the now defunct Island Theatre Company, and veteran of Quarry Players productions over the past decade, most recently 2009’s By the Bog of Cats.
“You should never make a rash judgement about something because the more I began to read it, the more it intrigued me. There is a reason why certain plays are done a lot, old plays, and the more I delved into the Field, the more I realised that we haven’t lost any of the attitudes that are so strong in the play.”
Murphy cites the septic tank issues, property bubbles and bankers driving the country to ruin to illustrate his point.
“Attachments that we had in 1965 when the Field was written haven’t gone away, they might have shifted focus, but the whole property thing comes from the same deep rooted sense of mission to posses land or houses,” he explains.
“Into the mouth of Bull is placed a raw anger at the church, at the authorities, as represented by a guard, and the well off - there are lines about how the small man won’t be allowed to get away with anything, will always be stepped upon by those above, for example if you are a lawyer or wearing a suit - or are a banker - you can get away with anything you like.”
He acknowledges that people will be familiar with the subject matter, but feels this is something to be cherished rather than shied away from.
“I think familiar or unfamiliar with Keane, you kind of know what you are going to get, in the best possible sense,” he says.
“I am amazed at how emotionally strong it is, everyone sees it as a play about a killing, but for me it is not, it is more about what that does to people, the community - and the silence that follows. How light gets extinguished, a river being polluted, infecting everything around it - that still feels pretty contemporary in this country.”
The Field runs in the Belltable until this Saturday and from Wednesday to Saturday, February 15-18.