Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Apr 24 – May 26, 2018
Playwright: Martin McDonagh
Director: Deborah Mulhall
Cast: Lloyd Allison-Young, Michael Becker, Alice Birbara, Steve Corner, Angus Evans, Patrick Holman, James McCrudden, Nicholas Sinclair
Images by Bob Seary
It is 1993, and the threat of devastating violence in Northern Ireland is a daily reality. Groups are formed, and re-formed, in accordance with shifting political ideals that deliver little more than bloodshed and suffering. Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant Of Inishmore first appeared in 2001, only a few years after the abatement of conflict, when the memories of terror were still fresh, and the play’s comedy is therefore, predictably dark.
Also completely absurd and deeply ironic, a narrative is built around Padraic, a homicidal maniac who kills in the name of nationalism, and the very unlikely soft spot he has for Wee Thomas, the pet cat at home. Blisteringly funny, the sardonic The Lieutenant Of Inishmore deals with real life trauma, by channelling the senselessness of recent history through heightened humour, into a digestible form. Every time we laugh at a joke, we are required to reflect on the wounds to which it refers, and in that process find a way to reach an understanding, of things too difficult to find psychological and emotional resolution for.
Director Deborah Mulhall sets the tone perfectly, for an outrageous ride of a show. The bold comedy is as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking, and our communal laughter works to create a sense of unity around the play’s discussions of terrorism and war. A delightful cast keeps us amused from the very start, when the formidable duo of Patrick Holman and James McCrudden open the production with an energetic confidence and delightful eccentricity. Chemistry between the two is nuanced and tenacious, and thoroughly enjoyable to the bitter end. Lloyd Allison-Young is a very compelling leading man, incisive in his portrayal of Padraic. Inventive and charismatic, with an enviable knack for comic timing, he lands every punchline with finesse and flair.
The story is ridiculous, but we leave the theatre thinking its wild fiction is no stranger than the truth. As we grapple with the idea of children in foreign lands being bombed, and of our neighbours being arrested for charges of terrorism, we often experience disorientation and confusion, as though the world had been turned upside down. We try to install order into things to form a semblance of logic, because information must be arranged to cohere somehow, for the alternative of ignorance and apathy is unforgivable. So much of how we are is bizarre, and bizarrely inhumane, but even when we are unable to locate the reasons for our atrocities, to prevent them from occurring must always be fundamental to who we are.