Noel Coward Theatre, London until 8 September 2018
Violence has never been so hilarious in this strong revival of Martin McDonagh’s rarely seen play.
I should point out from the very beginning that if you are not a fan of gruesome scenes of violence or love cats (as Padriac does) then this might not be the best play for you, given the amount of blood that ends up everywhere. But as well as being brutal, Michael Grandage’s production is absolutely hilarious from start to finish.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore begins with the discovery that Mad Padraic’s cat Wee Thomas has been killed, leaving Donny (Denis Conway) and Davey (Chris Walley) in a difficult position of how to tell Padriac and wondering exactly how he will react. What then follows is a bit of bloodbath as Padraic’s comrades in the INLA plot to assassinate him – but of course, not everything goes according to plan.
Martin McDonagh’s play is sharply written, filled with a lovely dark sense of humour that director Michael Grandage uses to full effect as the twists and turns of the story begin to unfold and the blood starts to spill.
There are quite a few hilarious scenes that really capture the cast’s performances well – not least the opening scene in which Walley’s likeable but dim-witted Davey and Conway’s panic-stricken Donny discuss the best way to tell Padraic that his cat is no longer living – each of their performances complementing each other’s really well.
It has to be said that at times the production doefeel likeke a number of set pieces as opposed to a fluent show – particularly in the first act, which can feel slightly disjointed as the location constantly changes. But on the other side of this, Michael Grandage’s direction is bold and encapsulates McDonagh’s writing well, getting the balance of shock and humour just right – as the moment in which Padriac shoots the substitute cat that Davey has lined up proves. In contrast, the second act is wonderfully intense particularly as the body count begins to add up – leaving the audience wondering exactly who is going to be left alive.
But the cast all clearly relish their roles. Aidan Turner as Padriac offers an interesting performance of a sympathetic character who loves his cat dearly as highlighted in the scene in which he receives the call that his cat is sick, leading James the drug-dealer to comfort him (despite him being the one being tortured), but he then switches into this cold and ruthless character, who almost sounds reasonable as he justifies his violence. It is refreshing to see Turner taking on a role such as this which he is clearly enjoying. The image of him holding and stroking his dead cat is one that will bizarrely stay with me for a long time.
Elsewhere, there are some lovely performances not least from Chris Walley as the not-quite-with-it Davey, who is accused of killing Wee Thomas. It is a performance that is wonderfully comedic and enjoyable to watch, particularly as a final few revelations are made. Meanwhile, Charlie Murphy as the feisty and ambitious Mairead delivers an equally strong performance. Julian Moore-Cook as Joey, Daryl McCormack as Brendan and Will Irvine all offer excellent support and it would have been great (if the play had been extended length wise) to see more of them and their characters.
As a production, The Lieutenant of Inishmore is brutal and violent, yet somehow has a charm about it that keeps the audience successfully engaged from beginning to end. Who knew violence on this scale could be this funny?