A/V Room









We salute The Lieutenant of Inishmore

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 to finish.

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 willy-nilly.

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.

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