Thursday, 5 July 2018

REVIEW: The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre

Martin McDonagh is a very confident and clever writer whose most recent success was the film Three billboards outside Ebbing Missouri but he must also have felt incredibly brave when he wrote The Lieutenant of Inishmore in 1994 (although it was not staged until 2001) as it is a very dark satire about the IRA and their splinter group the INLA. He spares no punches in portraying them as fecking idiots whose answer to everything is torture and murder. The plot is simple Mad Padraic, a terrorist so dangerous that he is thrown out of the IRA, is disturbed to hear that his beloved cat Wee Thomas is ill that he interrupts his torturing of a local drug dealer to rush to his home on the island of Inishmore to be with him. It sets up an elongated black comedy sketch worthy of Monty Python or Spike Milligan.

The setting designed by Christopher Oram, as always with Michael Grandage's artful productions is impressive and detailed . The main scenes take place in his father's cottage on the island , which apart from the plain blue cyc outside the front door and windows, looks incredibly solid and shows Padraic's humble rural background. The rest of the scenes are played in front of a splendid 3D map of the island of Inishmore which is also used to cover scene changes in the cottage.

The two central characters who open the play are the terrorist's father Donny, a delightful comic performance by Denis Conway who has been charged with looking after the cat and the young Davey, an impressive West End debut by Chris Walley who has discovered the body of the cat on the road and boosts a "girl's mane of hair". They decide to let Padraic down the gently with the news, just like the very old joke about the person told to let people down gently by saying the cat is on the roof when it has died and later explains to his relative that the mother in law is on the roof. This is the level of the farcical comedy throughout even in the dark bloody scenes of torture and murder which comes to a climatic conclusion in a bloodbath at the end of the play.

Aiden Turner plays Padraic, dressed in a white vest and a two revolver holster and is required to look mean and broody throughout even when he encounters a love interest with another would be terrorist Mairead played with cool authority by Charlie Murphy. Even in his most desperate difficulties with three guns at his head and hands tied he still believes "something will turn up". His fan base from his role on TV Poldark will easily put aside his unpleasant character and enjoy his performance. 

They are well supported by other members of the INLA who are seeking to keep
control of the group and are involved in the desperate shootout which leads one character to muse, "it is incidents like this put tourists off the Ireland" and another to reflect that "I don't suppose it is the travel that attracts fellas to the INLA". 

Michael Grandage's company consistently deliver very high quality productions, well cast, beautifully staged and directed with a strong clear hand and never let the audience down. I just hope that next time he tackles something more substantial with the same quality and eye for detail.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: stalls N | Price of Ticket: £89
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