February 16, 2012

Katie Goes to the Theater

From the poster for the performance
at Belltable Theater in Limerick.
Tonight I went to see a play called The Field - my study abroad program bought us tickets. It's set in a small town in southwest Ireland (that's about where I am) in the 1960s. It's based on a true story, about a man named Bull who's worked a rented field for years and feels entitled to it. The woman who owns the land - a widow who needs the money she'll make selling it - puts it up to auction, and Bull threatens everyone to make sure no one else bids but him. But then an outsider comes in and out-bids Bull, so Bull kills him and threatens the whole town to cover it up.

I think we were supposed to feel sympathetic for Bull - he was risking losing his livelihood after all, with the world changing around him and with no support should he lose the land. But really, after the first scene was up I spent the rest of the play wishing he'd lose somehow; that the other guy would get the land, or that someone would tell the guards that he was the murder and he would go to jail forever. He complained about how the law was only on the side of rich people and the land wouldn't even be worth anything without his work and now it was being sold out from under him, and I just wanted someone to hit him. But everyone was afraid of him and in the end he gave a monologue about how he'd feel guilty but he'd still get his land and that was that.

If I were thoughtful and knowledgeable about theater and good at segues, I would tie this into the event I went to at Oxford, a symposium of various English theater luminaries talking about theater and politics. However, the conversation was ill-defined (is everything political? is it only political if it talks about party politics/policy? is conservative or liberal defined by ideology or effect?) and way over my head. The most exciting part of the whole thing was that Ralph Fiennes (aka Lord Voldemort) was also there and also confused. He probably would have liked the Field, though. He spent the whole panel talking about directing Coriolanus, a Shakespeare tragedy I had never previously heard of, and from what he said it's pretty depressing as well. 

Still, I really enjoyed both the panel and the play, even if the former was confusing and the latter was frustrating. Most of the times I get to go to the theater it's to see musicals my uncle is working on, so after hearing all these famous theater people talking about serious political tragedies, it was really cool to go see one myself! (But next time, I want a comedy.)

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