(Mary Coll’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 7/8; Photo: Kathy Rose O’Brien stars as Vera in In the Middle of the Fields.)

★★★★

West Wall Walkway, Kilmallock

Timing is everything and what better time to explore the themes of isolation, grief and loss than after a period of collective trauma such as we have all experienced in this recent pandemic.

Being back in a theatre again felt both poignant and a little surreal, especially as the theatre was an open-sided tent in a field in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, but it was a perfectly apposite setting, with a soft summer breeze blowing and horses grazing happily nearby.

This exquisite world premiere staging of writer Mary Lavin’s 1967 short story by director Joan Sheehy and Geoff Gould’s Blood In The Alley Theatre Company finds its feet with calm assurance in the shadow of the #MeToo movement, confronting as it does timeless questions about what is appropriate behaviour and who holds the power in any situation between a man and a woman. Vera (Kathy Rose O’Brien) is a young widow with small children living alone on a farm, she needs some help with the land and perhaps with more than that, which is what brings her married neighbour Bartley Crossen (Seamus Moran) to her door on the recommendation of trusted farm hand Ned (Mark O’Regan). There is a gentle undercurrent between O’Brien and Moran by day, he is the contractor and she owns the land but the temperature changes and the ground shifts when he calls to her farmhouse in the dark of night and everything that is then said or unsaid between them has a deeply unsettling tension.

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