First seen in 1997, The Lonesome West is one of a trio of plays by the British-born Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. The plays are linked primarily by their setting, the fictional town of Leenane in the West of Ireland and, like the others in the trilogy (The Beauty Queen of Leenane and A Skull in Connemara), the characters of The Lonesome West exist in the shadow of a past that has made them what they are and defines the limits of what they can be. Like all of McDonagh’s work, the play combines jet-black humour with a bubbling undertow of violence, and this would seem to make it a bold choice for a community theatre group, especially one whose name indicates a pre-occupation with the work of Shakespeare. Yet the Richmond Shakespeare Society’s gamble, if that’s what it is, comes off. McDonagh may not be Shakespeare but, with his twisted tales of Irish lives lived and lost, he is certainly at the forefront of contemporary playwrights and this furiously funny production, directed by Fiona Smith, makes for a quite unforgettable evening.
The principal characters of The Lonesome West are the Connor brothers, Valene and Coleman, and the play takes place in their just-about-furnished cottage; the set is bare almost to the point of absurdity, underlining that the brothers have little but each other and that anything there is belongs to Valene, the older and just-about-wiser of the two. As Valene, Martin Halvey gives an extraordinarily rich performance, manically obsessing over his belongings, his collection of Catholic figurines, his beloved oven while trying to pre-empt the thieving of his idiot younger brother, Coleman, played by Steve Webb. Webb is a mass of mannerisms, twitching and jerking – too much so on his initial entrance – and constantly railing about past injustices or seething like a pressure cooker about how to restore the balance between the brothers. The Connors war constantly, like Tom and Jerry, with every exchange between them threatening to reduce the cottage and themselves to a smoking heap of ashes. The local priest, Father Welsh – played with haunting dignity by an impeccably accented Tom Shore – does everything he can to bring the brothers together while the play’s least plausible character, a schoolgirl poteen-dealer, does everything she can to keep them apart. As the girl, Girleen Kelleher, whose arc is the most complex of the four, Elle Greenwood brings depth and maturity to the role. But The Lonesome West belongs to the battling Connors and by the time the curtain comes down their lunatic rivalry has exhausted themselves and also the audience.
Review by Louis Mazzini
Welcome to beautiful rural Connemara, where violence, murder and suicide are local recreational activities.
Psychotic siblings Coleman and Valene share a remote cottage and perpetual disputes over the most
mundane of topics. Only the alcoholic, ineffectual priest Father Walsh strives to reconcile them. Add a visit
from teenager Girleen, the local poteen supplier, and a shotgun and…
Coleman Connor – Steve Webb
Verlene Connor – Martin Halvey
Father Welsh – Tom Shore
Girleen – Elle Greenwood
Director Fiona Smith
S M Laura May Hassan
ASM Rita Stringer
Sound John Pyle
Lighting design Sarah Hill
Lighting operator Stella Guerry du Bray
Statue maker Julia Allen
The Lonesome West
by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Fiona Smith
The Mary Wallace Theatre
8th June to Saturday 15th June 2019