The Lieutenant of Inishmore – Gaiety Theatre – Review
Dates: 27th Jan – 14th Mar 2020
The year is 1993 and Mad Padraic (Paul Mescal) is a member of a particularly violent splinter group from the INLA. We meet him as he is torturing a drug dealer in West Belfast. That’s when he gets some unexpected news. While Padraic doesn’t care much for other humans, he has one great love in his life and that is his cat, Wee Thomas. His cat is sick and he decides to return home to the island to care for him. As you would expect, the results are disastrous for all involved!
This play by Martin McDonagh was first staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2001. It is the second part of McDonagh’s Aran Islands Trilogy. The first part of the trilogy, The Cripple of Inishmaan, was produced by the Gaiety Theatre at this time last year. It’s a fairly safe bet that the third part of the Trilogy ‘The Banshees of Inisheer’ will feature next January if this production does well at the box office! There is no connection between this play and the other parts of the trilogy, so no knowledge of the first play is required.
This play was written before Martin McDonagh started his experiments with film making and Hollywood. It was well received and went on to be nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. It was first staged in Dublin in 2003 as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
This is possibly the bloodiest of McDonagh’s plays. By the final scenes, the stage is filled with the bodies of those involved in the tale and not all are in one piece! This will no doubt prove too much for some audience members, and it is unusual to see on stage what is normally reserved for horror films. Also, some elements of the plot reflect several recent news stories a little too closely for their own good, making this far-fetched story seem all too real. It is much easier to laugh at bloodshed when it is not reflected on our streets.
The main point of interest in this production is the quality of the acting. Alex Murphy of ‘The Young Offenders’ is a particular highlight. He is one of the few (relatively) sane voices with his portrayal of Davey, a young man with a mullet that gets caught up in the madness. He forms part of a double act with Donny (Don Wycherley) as a couple of men who are trapped within this world of mayhem, where any simple slip of the tongue could result in their demise. Aisling Kearns does well in the part of Mairead, the tomboy gun enthusiast who sets her heart on Mad Padraic.
There will be few audience members stumbling into this production without any prior knowledge of McDonagh or his oeuvre. Even so, this play deserves a note of caution for the level of violence it contains. While events in the north of Ireland have been relatively stable in recent years, this work pokes fun at a difficult topic. Having said that, the play certainly does have some very funny moments and will find a home with theatre fans who enjoy the macabre.
Cast includes – Paul Mescal (BBC’s Normal People, The Great Gatsby), Aisling Kearns (Darklands, Asking For It), Alex Murphy (The Young Offenders), Cillian Ó Gairbhí (Blood, Darklands), Desmond Eastwood (Blackout, Normal People), Cillian Lenaghan (Blackout) and in his professional debut Pádraig O’Grady. They are joined by Don Wycherley in the role of Donny (Sing Street, Bachelor’s Walk).