Review by David Munro
THE Lieutenant of Inishmore, by Martin McDonagh, is described
as a black comedy. Black it certainly is; funny it certainly is,
but, in reality, it is more of a symposium of anarchic, iconoclastic
humour than a comedy in the pure sense of the word.
It is as though Monty Python, Spike Milligan and Joe Orton had
decided to put their pennyworth into the Irish peace process and
to show, in their own manic way, the futility of violence.
Opening with a discussion over a dead cat and proceeding through
a torture scene to a climax where most of the cast are corpses
being dissected for disposal as though they were debris left over
from a riotous party, the play makes fun of the more unpleasant
aspects of terrorism and sectarian violence.
And very funny it is, too. With a cast who appear, from their
CVs, to be born and bred Irish, the evening is a joy from start
The premise of the piece is that the psychopathic terrorist,
Padraic, (Barry Ward), is being enticed back to his home village
through the murder of his beloved cat, so that his comrade in
arms can execute him for some sin against their warped code.
Most of the action takes place in or around the home of his father,
Donny (Ciaran McIntyre), who together with a youth, Davey (Mathew
Dunphy), are the fall guys for all the violence, and who are left
to clear up the mess at the end of the play.
Davey has a sister, Mairead (Aoife Nadden), who is a sort of
Irish Annie Oakley, whose claim to fame is that she shot the eyes
out of ten cows as a gesture against the sale of animals for food.
Who is going to buy blind cows at market? So this will eventually
end the trade in animals for food is the warped logic that permeates
this play. She and Padraic find they are kindred souls and decide
to get engaged, leaving marriage until Ireland is free, which,
as Danny points out, is likely to be a very long engagement.
Padraic's three vengeful comrades, Christie (David Ireland sic),
Joey (Matt Macardle) and Brendan (Jason Kavanagh), are portrayed
as three cretinous thugs who can't have a discussion without drawing
a gun, which displays, very clearly, the author's view of the
IRA and its members, although he is very careful to point out
that they are a splinter group from the party proper.
Danny and Davey are in a sense a Greek chorus, commenting on
and involved, faut de mieux, with all the mayhem. Davey's cry
'will this never end?', after they think they are over the crisis
and a new threat appears, encapsulates the message of the play
- violence begets violence and it involves the innocent bystander
A very hackneyed view, perhaps, but made here all the more poignant
arising as it does from the mad humour of the play.
All the cast are excellent, even Paul Lloyd in a cameo as Jamie,
the drug dealer who Padraic is torturing, not because he supplied
drugs to children, but because he supplied them to Catholic children;
Protestant children are no cause for concern.
The single set by Bob Bailey is a typical cottage interior and
is an ideal background for the action. The direction of Wilsom
Milam cannot be faulted.
He keeps the action going at a rattling pace and he has developed,
with his cast, the art of the throwaway line without which the
play could have been very unpleasant. As it was, he imposed a
cartoon-like air over the violence and reduced it to the absurdity
the author intended.
The ads extol this play as "Brilliant " and, for once,
I would agree. It is brilliant both in its concept and execution.
I can only therefore add my voice to the plaudits it has already
received and confirm that, in my view, they are well justified.
An amusing but challenging evening of macabre theatre in the nicest
possible sense. Go to it!
The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh, Director Wilson
Milam, Designer Bob Bailey, Lighting Mathew Eagland, Sound Matt
McKenzie. WITH: Mathew Dunphy, Ciaran Mcintyre, Barry Ward, Paul
Lloyd, Aolfe Madden, David Ireland, Matt McArdle and Jason Kavanagh.
Produced by Edward Snape for Fiery Angel Ltd. & Theatre Royal
Bath Productions by arrangement with Adam Kenwright & Us productions.
A Royal Shakespeare Company production at Richmond Theatre, The
Little Green, Richmond, Surrey. Tickets 020 8940 0088.