Crosserlough Drama Group's production of The Field kept a third full house in a row in fits of laughter throughout Saturday night's show. Those who were introduced to John B Keane's most famous creation through the film would have arrived at the Crosserlough hall expecting a poignant drama but were instead treated to a bawdy farce, which at times bordered on panto. Eager for a good night's craic the audience - some of whom had come from as far away as Sligo and America, delighted in the physical humour, and lapped up the many gags.
Keane's play sees Bull McCabe hatch a plan, at once both underhanded and understandable, to take ownership of a field rented from a widow, which during his back-breaking five year tenancy, has been greatly improved. Playing him straight, with only occasional comic flourishes, Adrian McCabe stood out as Bull. However all the sympathetic qualities you would normally associate with this proud man struggling to secure a future for his somewhat troubled son were removed.
What was left was a brooding, menacing figure armed with a staff and booming voice to intimidate all who come between him and 'his' field, and a rather odd aversion to donkeys.
Seldom far from the safety of Bull's considerable shadow, was his dim-witted son, Tadhg, played by Shane McCabe. The stooped coward's facial expressions were a source of great amusement as he conjured countless variations of gormlessness within the narrow range of vacant grin to perplexed bewilderment. Complexities in Tadhg's and Bull's fraught relationship so central to the film were extracted, presumably to keep the drama light and the humour generous, with the result that this Bull was seemingly quite pleased with how his snivelling son was maturing.
Star of this show was undoubtedly Sean McCabe as the mischievous, shrewd, and put-upon Bird O'Donnell. He mastered the wizened, grubby old alcoholic, who flitted in and out of the action to coax drinks from almost everyone who entered the bar.
Sean drew many of the biggest laughs of the night, notably as he used flattery to wrangle whiskey from the bar owner's (Patsy Gaffney) frustrated wife (Bernie McEvoy).
The rest of the cast were also very warmly received by the audience, with Anna Reilly vying with Sean in getting the biggest crowd reaction. She revived Brendan O'Carroll's Mrs Browne when playing the twinkle-eyed bloomers-flashing Mrs Dandy, who was eager to offload her man-mad daughter, Tilly (Olive Lynch).
The opening segment of the play saw occasional stumbles in the rhythm of the lines, but they quickly found their stride, probably encouraged by the constant laughter. The aim was to entertain and that's what they did - never has this reviewer seen an audience laugh so much through a production.
Special mention must be made of the set design. It was superb, and genuinely wouldn't have looked out of place at The Abbey.