Theatre Review: Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore arrives at the New Theatre (Sydney until May 26)

Padraic’s long been away from his home of Inishmore, fighting with the Irish National Liberation Army. Too mad even for the IRA, he’s built an epic thirst for murder and torture, picking small-time pot dealers and bombing chip shops in his spare time. His father Donny calls to inform him his beloved cat is ill, and racing back to the quiet village, runs on a murderous rampage when the Wee Thomas is in fact found to be dead.

Writer Martin McDonagh has had recent success in film, markedly with last year’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and he’s built his own brand of wry black comedy to much acclaim. While this staging is filled with over-the-top gore, it’s central message isn’t lost in an era of political extremism and fanaticism. Padraic is lost in the memory of a pet he doesn’t even see anymore, to the destruction of all around him.

The cast of eight is visibly having a great time on stage, with excellent accent work throughout. Lloyd Allison-Young’s Padraic is cheeky and wry, bringing violence from a place of genuine hurt and discomfort rather than overplaying with mania. Alice Birabara’s Miread is sweet yet simultaneously sinister, while James McCrudden and Patrick Holman as Donny and Davey respectively are the comic relief. The fast-based nature of the direction added to the play’s humour in some parts but in many tipped it over into farce. The script is whip-smart and full of sharp dialogue, however allowing some space for ambiguity, where darker comedy often resides, might allow the absurdity of each character’s actions to sink in further.

Set design from Tom Bannerman gives the play an industrial feel, with an asymmetrical platform suspended over the stage utilized to change setting. While a complex look, and suited to the plays abstract nature, it shifted seamlessly through scenes.

This is definitely not one for the squeamish, but all-in-all is a fun rollercoaster from an excellently talented cast.

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is on at the New Theatre in Sydney until May 26th. For tickets and more details, head HERE.