Lieutenant of Inishmore

Friday, 28 June, 2002
Review by: 
Alan Bird

Martin McDonagh’s reputation for writing black comedies is greatly enhanced by his latest offering “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”. The play is so violent that it is not suitable for children under the age of 15. McDonagh looks at the futility, mindlessness and fatuousness that he believes infests the minds of a terrorist by turning them into comical caricatures, which he then lampoons without mercy.

The action starts with Wee Thomas the Cat who has gone to meet his maker after what appears to be a tragic accident. However, Wee Thomas was no ordinary cat, he was the pet of “Mad Padraic”, a psychopath who is out of town on a one-man mission to clean up Ireland from drug pushes and pimps, and to drive out the British. Padraic has so lost touch with reality that he tortures a man for supplying dope to university students, accusing him of corrupting the little children of Ireland, and he plants bombs with which to ‘liberate’ Ireland in chip shops, because the British army bases are too well protected.

The return of Mad Padraic to enquire about the well-being of his one and only friend, his beloved cat Wee Thomas, begins this bazaar story that involves cats of the dead, living and camouflaged variety. Also an INLA death squad is searching for Padraic because he has formed a splinter group. The fact that Padraic is the only member seems to no way diminish this vile iniquity. This sets the scene for the other zany characters that inhabit a McDonagh play. There is Donny, the rogue father of Padraic and the custodian of Wee Thomas the cat. Davey, the geek who is in love with his long hair and his mother’s bike, and Mairead, who not only longs for a free Ireland but also loves animals. To oppose the slaughter of animals for food she shoots out the eyes of cows reasoning that a farmer cannot sell a blind cow.

This is an excellent cast. Exceptionally good is Elaine Cassidy who plays Mairead; her girlish innocence is mixed with a psychotic craving that creates a chillingly cold character. Domhnall Gleeson, who plays Davey, Mairead’s younger brother, and the boy initially held responsible for the demise of Wee Thomas the Cat, also deserves a mention. He plays the part of the bellyaching lackey who is arbitrarily blamed for everyone’s problems with amusing plaintiveness. One would never guess this is his stage debut.

A black comedy that is not for the faint hearted, but hilarious nevertheless.


What other critics had to say.....

NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Unfortunately McDonagh's bad-taste, black humour doesn't greatly amuse me." ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Everyone should see it. Its jokes are not in good taste, but then humour, like art, is subversive." IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "Through a combination of graphic violence and comic bathos, McDonagh pushes his satire to cartoonish extremes. But it makes for a bold, ferociously funny evening." LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "This is a terrific play about a serious subject that's touched with a Monty Pythonesque insanity."

External links to full reviews from newspapers

The Financial Times
The Times
The Guardian

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