Nothing like live theatre.

The work of Martin McDonagh’s THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE at the Lane Cove Theatre Company is a fine choice given it is studied in one of the most popular topic areas for HSC Drama  – Black Comedy. Inside this topic it is also one of the most popular choices and students report the most successful in terms of evidencing the form most profoundly. Dealing with that which is the human experience of pain, loss, the controversial or taboo.

The production is ‘Tandeen’ yet nonetheless hits all the points of this provocative yet mindless fun. Without the blood soaking I have seen in previous versions, this is still full of the gore bringing the work off the page most effectively.

The play depicts an orgy of random violence, and characters fueled by a mixture of puritanism, sentimentality and mindless fanaticism, whose political aims have long been subsumed by a desire to terrorise for its own sake it seems. McDonagh uses explicit cruelty to expose the pointlessness of the terrorism he is criticising. He challenges the absurdity of the Irish terrorist movement in the last century era also known as “the Troubles”. The actions of the characters are perverse and shockingly absurd and as is inherent in the ‘black’ of the comedy, the audience will find fits of laughter in heightened moments where it should indeed be inappropriate to do so.

McDonagh believes that the violence has a purpose in this play. He writes from a position of pacifist rage, it’s a violent play that is wholeheartedly anti-violence.

A sensible set design creates effectively the three locations. The domesticity of the cosy indoors with the complex “Home Sweet Home” that welcomes the cat carnage at the centre of the action that sets up all that follows. The external and outdoors marked simply by a boulder. All but one scene set on the Aran Islands on the west coast of Ireland. The venue has many limitations for sightlines when much of the work is set on the floor.

The directorial choices marked also by the hysterics and all players manifestly working the extremes of the heightened responses to all. The home comedy local duo of mad Padraic’s father Donny and a local lad Davey is one of the key successes of this production. They are as detached from the threat potential as the others are maniacally driven. “You’ve killed me cat and ruined me life” whines Padraic.

As over the top as the extremes seem, without the overt gore and simple cap-guns the text lives large, and the audience is drawn in to the notions delivered from the threatened splinter terrorist group as they reveal the madness of cutting off noses and nipples to the squeals of the squeamish gigglers in the house.

I loved also the soundtrack behind the scene changes as broad as a good Irish Craic for the traditional folk style to The Pogues. All the actors were capable of a sustained accent overall and although I was witness to the preview before opening, they should enjoy a solid three week run finding a balance of comic timing.

Directed by Kathryn Thomas and Mitch Garling

10 – 26 May 2024

The Performance Space @ St Aidan’s

Production photography by Jim Crews

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