In Your Face Theatre’s production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore lives up to its company’s name and in delicious fashion. It is visceral, gory and gut-wrenchingly funny.
It balances the mawkish sentimentality of Animal Hospital with the relentless bloodletting of Reservoir Dogs
The simple story follows terrorist psycho Padraic, a renegade member of the INLA, a splinter group of the IRA. Padraic returns to his hometown in Inishmore after hearing that his dearly beloved cat is “poorly.” From then on the bloodbath begins. Waterproof ponchos are provided on the seats – and with good reason. This show makes Bloody Sunday look like a paper cut. Fortunately, the inevitable squealing is equally matched by crazed laughter and the half-wincing, half-howling that it elicits in an audience.
The script, by Martin McDonagh of In Bruges fame, is well paced and punchy: foul language, absurd misunderstandings, and one liners so sharp you fear for your safety all abound in glorious and manic dialogue. The story, too, is solid. The multiple conspiracies and intrigues are easily followed, allowing for the unimpeded development of McDonagh’s side splitting moral squalor. This is serious satire at its silliest. All the while, it balances the mawkish sentimentality of Animal Hospital with the relentless bloodletting of Reservoir Dogs. At its heart, the play asks if violence begets anything other than more violence. The answer, one that the protagonists seem painfully incapable of realising, is that it cannot.
The actors are all on the right page or at least very close. They skilfully ramp up the necessary energy that the script demands and stay there; a feat which is particularly admirable due to the characters’ comic book-like mood swings. Paul King’s James switches from terrified screaming to giving polite pet owning advice in no time at all. But it is undoubtedly Mark Barrett as Padraic who steals the show. Whether he is frothing, twitching, laughing, torturing, or sobbing he does it with a singularly enigmatic delivery. He is a giddy delight to watch.
Also a delight is Christie Russell-Brown as Mairead, a 16 year old wannabe freedom fighter. She balances effectively the strange youthful innocence of the character with her burgeoning sense of sexual awareness and increasing blood lust. Kenny MacLeod’s Donny is also impressive as a husk of a drunk – a widower so miserly that he feeds his cat Frosties rather than proper cat food. Less impressive, however, was Matt Swift’s Davey, who seems somewhat overwhelmed by the testosterone-pumped atmosphere of the play. While this is partially explainable in terms of the character, whose long hair seems to invite criticism, it is still a noticeably paler performance than that which is delivered by the rest of the cast.
Devilish, gruelling, and above all funny, this is a terrific show. Perhaps not for the faint-hearted but for those that can swallow the blood and gore – sometimes literally, due to the spray – The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a thrilling ride.