Interview: Bernard Field, “Each audience member receives the story through the prism of their own personal story”

Shroud, the new play by Bernard Field, which opens tonight at the Playground Theatre in London, centres on the inner workings of the Catholic Church in Ireland and its crimes against children. As well as writing the play, Field features in the cast as Father Martin. Field also previously played the role of Father Martin when the production debuted at The Town Hall Theatre, Galway.

The production is directed by Jim Ivers in his London debut and features Annabel Cleare, Fintan Kelly, John McDonagh and Michael Irwin alongside Field.

Ahead of opening night we spoke to Field, whose other credits include Last Train From Holyhead, The Early Hours, Zeitgeist and The Juggler, about Shroud and what audiences may take away from the production.

Q&A with Bernard Field

Hi Bernard, thanks for speaking with us ahead of opening night of Shroud at the Playground Theatre. What can you tell us about your play?

Shroud tell the story of a priest who wants to come clean about his deviant behaviour and the response from the church authorities to this “crisis” in its midst. I suppose the main theme is the contradiction between the ethics which govern civil society and the quite different ethics that appear to govern the church’s understanding of right and wrong and their placing of that ethic (Canon Law) and the protection of their church above all.

Shroud touches on themes that could be challenging for some audience members – was that something that you considered when writing the play?

No. When writing you’re not thinking beyond anything except the play. This issue is challenging full stop. There’s no way to avoid that central fact. If some people think the play is not for them than that personal decision of theirs has our total respect and understanding.

Do you view Shroud as part of a changing narrative around the Church in Ireland?

The narrative in Ireland can hardly be called a narrative as it has never been grounded in transparency, openness and honesty. The issue is hedged about. The church still has a huge influence which is somewhat startling after all that’s come out and continues to come out not only in Ireland but worldwide.

What are you hoping audiences will take away from the production?

Audiences see things that those involved in the play never even dreamt of. Each audience member receives the story through the prism of their own personal story. If it creates the possibility in them for new perspectives, creative understanding, and insight, then that would make it all worthwhile. But that’s a lot to hope for.

Do you anticipate that London audiences will react differently to the way that audiences reacted when the play was produced in Galway?

I expect they will but in precisely what way I couldn’t predict. How this issue shows up for different demographics is probably different in nuanced ways but the instinctive response to it, I believe, is universal.

Does your approach to acting change when you are also the writer of the play?

No. When the actor is doing his/her work, the writer, whoever he or she may be, has disappeared.

Finally, how would you describe Shroud to someone considering buying a ticket for the show? 

It’s a piece of theatre first and foremost. It’s not a documentary and it’s not journalism. It’s job is to draw the audience in to a story and produce a cathartic experience. Don’t be put off by the subject matter.

Shroud runs at The Playground Theatre until 5 March.  For tickets visit: