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the lonesome west : too predictable and lowdown

The Lonesome West. Pic Saz Watson

THE LONESOME WEST is a macabre tale of two brothers in a small Irish town. The brothers are in a codependent relationship.Their near fatal hate of one another is the basis of the play. 

We are treated to some of the finest acting ever seen in the Old Fitz, and some of the darkest black comedy ever written. The playwright is Martin McDonagh

Written 25 years ago, this savage story was a smash hit on Broadway. The play juxtaposes the morbid side of the two brothers with the comical side, presenting the senselessness and futility of their lives. It depicts them as two individuals who are helpless victims of fate.

Some will find THE LONESOME WEST hilarious. Others will be distressed. There are a few tender moments but the story is replete with murders, suicides and revenge.

Empress Theatre has helmed this production at this famous pub theatre. Director Anna Houston has brought together an amazing team. Andre de Vanny is marvellous as the spiteful brother. Lee Beckhurst is the resentful brother. Abe Mitchell is the depressed Father Welsh. Ruby Henaway is the only female character in the play and she is the only respite from the destructive forces in the play. All four are excellent actors. Full marks to set designer Kate Beere for creating the decaying Irish living room. 

As a work of dark comedy this play falls flat because it is predictable. In the opening scene, the newly arrived local priest is shocked that the two brothers are not mourning the death of their father, who was only buried that day. The priest’s demeanour and the callous behaviour of the brothers in the opening scene predicts the ending. Two and a half hours later the prediction is confirmed. We know the ending from the beginning. 

Nothing changes. Is the play a comment on history? Nothing changes much over time – war, revenge, destruction. If the brothers are a microcosm of the tragic human condition, then we need more theatrical effects to keep the audience engaged. “And one man in his time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages.” (As You Like It). It would have been good to see more than one age presented in these characters.

Don’t take the teenagers or anyone who may be fragile. The production contains themes of suicide, animal cruelty, violence, and homophobic, misogynistic and racist language. 

Martin McDonagh’s THE LONESOME WEST is playing the Old Fitz theatre, the basement theatre within the Old Fitz Hotel, on the corner of Cathedral and Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo until February 4 2024. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one interval.

Production photography by Saz Watson



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