This is a black comedy about a black cat. Its part Reservoir Dogs and part Father Ted and as such The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a surreal, comic satire and send-up of Irish terrorism. Written by Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing) and starring Aidan Turner (Poldark) this is a very important funny play.
Why? Mental health. We must laugh. We cannot go in living in a state of psychological fear. The so-called war on terror post 9/11 has created an overreaction and moral panic that has given the terrorists a significance they do not merit. The Lieutenant of Inishmore gives us permission to laugh at the absurdities of Irish terrorism and by analogy all terrorist organizations. I found the release profoundly exhilarating and came away from last night’s performance convinced that The Lieutenant of Inishmore should be seen by as many people as possible. It works because it does it through humour and gives us permission to laugh. This is even greater when you share this feeling with hundreds of other people in the theatre. It’s why theatre exists.
Mad Padraic (Aidan Turner) is so psychopathic that the IRA doesn’t want him and so he joins the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army). The endless splintering of terrorist organisations is wonderfully mocked when Christy (Will Irvine) says to Mad Padric “leaving the INLA to form a splinter group with one friend is not a splinter group it’s just two blokes!“. But just as the Kray twins loved their mum Violet so Padraic loves his black Cat ‘Wee Thomas’. The play’s drive comes from this moral ambiguity. A terrorist who loves his cat. Aidan Turner is superb as he switches from ruthless torturer to cat-loving dutiful son. In the midst of torturing a drug dealer, he takes a call on his mobile and breaks down sobbing when he hears from his Da Donny (Denis Conway) that Wee Thomas is poorly. He leaves Belfast (giving his victim his bus fare to the hospital!) to rush home to the island of Inishmore.
The cottage where the action takes place evokes memories of The Playboy of The Western World or The Quiet Man but this is a very different Ireland. Davey (the comic genius Chris Walley) is a gay dungarees wearing, mullet-haired, Motorhead fan, fancies himself as a Ninja and rides a pink bicycle. His sister Mairead (the superb Charlie Murphy) is a sixteen-year-old Annie Get Your Gun combat fatigue wearing wannabe terrorist, specialising in shooting out cow’s eyes from sixty yards. This role reversal and gender inversion set the tone for the rest of the play. We have entered the world of Joe Orton’s Loot and Alice In Wonderland. As the violence spirals to ever greater levels of grotesque goriness we laugh all the more. How this is done has to be seen to be believed. The finale is a comic masterpiece. A mish-mash of Kellogg’s Frosties, Top of The Pops, The X-Men, Bonnie and Clyde, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, chip shop manoeuvres and shoe polish – the laughter reaches a crescendo of joy and sheer joie de vivre. The seriousness of comedy has never been better demonstrated.
Review by John O’Brien
MGC Artistic Director Michael Grandage directs a rare revival of Martin McDonagh’s critically acclaimed, brilliant satire on terrorism, THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE. Stage and screen actor Aidan Turner, best known for playing the title role in the BBC hit series Poldark, plays Mad Padraic, a terrorist deemed too violent to be a member of the IRA, in this hilarious, acute observation of violence in contemporary culture. Who knocked Mad Padraic’s cat over on a lonely road on the island of Inishmore and was it an accident? He’ll want to know when he gets back from a stint of torture and chip-shop bombing in Northern Ireland: he loves that cat more than life itself. This production follows Michael Grandage’s award-winning production of McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan in 2013. MGC also present Red by John Logan, at Wyndham’s Theatre from 4th May 2018.
THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE
Booking Period: 23 June – 8 September 2018