There Is a Field at Theatre503
With a consistently strong sense of humour, some genuinely touching moments and an engaging plotline throughout, Martin Askew’s There Is a Field is an exceedingly strong play that evokes a host of questions related to contemporary religion: what makes a Muslim? How does one reconcile with one’s family after converting to another faith? When does being an orthodox believer go too far?
All these issues are weaved together neatly in an engaging storyline that never loses its focus and always remains captivating – and, more importantly, the piece handles its themes in the refreshingly subtle way this subject matter deserves, but so rarely receives. There are some preachy moments, but they are few and far between, so that they can easily be ignored.
No: the focus is most certainly on the drama between the characters of the play, which is largely centred around Mark (Sam Frenchum), a Muslim convert whose faith becomes so extreme that he refuses to spend time with his mother (Sarah Finigan) and his brother Tony (Fabrizio Santino) even after his father dies. Meanwhile, his best friend Saleh (Archie Backhouse), a moderate Muslim, tries to warn him of the dangers of becoming a fundamentalist, while he himself struggles with his own fate as a poor worker in a laundrette and a pregnant wife (Roseanna Frascona) who feels neglected.
The production by Esther Baker is generally rather conservative, but it doesn’t get in the way of the action. The casting decisions are good, for the most part, with Frenchum displaying the greatest prowess with his complicated character. Throughout the performance, the audience can feel his inner conflict and pain as he struggles with the clash between his personal feelings and his newfound faith – to such an extent that two moments in his character arc are incredibly moving.
But the production’s greatest strength is Askew’s writing, which displays an excellent sense of humour and moves seamlessly into the more tragic elements of the script. Nothing feels disjointed, everything falls into place, and it certainly never gets boring. While there are some weaker moments – Frascona’s character is underdeveloped, and Saleh occasionally feels a little unbelievable – these are only minor quibbles and hardly detract from an overall strong piece of theatre. There Is a Field is a great success that shows tremendous potential in highlighting the unusual situation many young Muslims in the East End may face today.
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
There Is a Field is at Theatre503 from 20th February until 16th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.