Locked, Stocked and Fully Loaded
Hell knows a fury worse than a woman scorned. Namely a cat lover whose cat has just been killed. In Martin McDonagh’s savagely funny "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," all other loves comes a distant second to the love of a cat. Love for a cause, love for family, love for a lover, none of it matters when a dead cat needs to be avenged. Dark, boisterous, and brutally funny, "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" subsumes its political overtones into rib nudging undertones in this hysterical, often histrionic take on McDonagh’s politically charged comedy. One infused with a wild irreverence that comes gunning for you with both barrels blazing.
Set in 1993 as the Northern Ireland Peace Process is still testing the waters, all hell breaks loose on the island of Inishmore when INLA member, Padraic, returns home. A mad killer whose penchant for violence is so intense even the IRA wouldn’t have him. Breaking ranks to take care of his ailing cat, Wee Thomas, Padraic discovers that his father Donny, and the mullet haired, girly boy Davey, have been lying to him. His feline friend of fifteen years isn’t sick at all, he’s already dead. Killed under mysterious circumstances. As Davey’s tom boy sister, the sharp shooter Mairead, makes moon eyes at Padraic, and fellow INLA members Christy, Brendan, and Joey come calling, Padraic finds stand offs, wild kisses, and bloody dismemberments becoming the order of business. And if cats have nine lives, several people will be wishing they had too before the day is over.
First produced in 2001, references to the Northern Irish conflict often sound dated post The Good Friday Agreement, with what once were invigorating provocations sounding more like political in jokes. Yet McDonagh’s cautionary tale about blind, violent patriotism is still as prescient as ever. Now, as then, "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" doesn’t trivialise so much satirise, portraying gratuitous violence with a Grand Guignol, cartoonish delight that make its apprehensible, but never acceptable. Something director Andrew Flynn masterfully evokes by letting the political take a back seat to McDonagh’s rock ’n’ roll antics. Which Carl Kennedy’s percussive funk metal sound design taps neatly into. If Owen MacCarthaigh’s sprawling set suggests a hill road leading untidily into a front room, its details forgive it much. Especially a superb backdrop of illuminated cliffs which Ciaran Bagnall’s already impressive lighting utilises to convey the passing of time. As well as crafting clever silhouettes during transitions that keep the action moving.
Throughout, characters reveal themselves best by way of mundane, Tarantino-like conversations. All brought vividly to life by a top class cast. Alex Murphy as the mullet loving Davey, delights as a man boy put upon by everyone. Meanwhile Davey’s tom boy sister, a hugely impressive Aisling Kearns, pushes her way through the world with masculine assertiveness and a rifle capable of taking your eye out from a distance. Don Wycherley’s Donny eases deceptively into taking understated comic command, ensuring the potential for wild histrionics is kept grounded. A foil to Paul Mescal’s hyper violent and hyper sensitive Padraic, a murderous, cat loving bad boy who Mescal makes utterly irresistible. Cillian Ó Gairbhi’s one eyed Christy, along with Desmond Eastwood’s Brendan and Cillian Lenaghan’s Joey delight as gormless terrorists punching above their weight. Pádraig O Grady, rotating with Ruairí Heading as the upturned drug dealer, James, round out a hugely impressive cast, whose superb comic timing is sure to fine tune itself even further as the run progresses.
Less Mozart and more Motorhead, "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" delivers a wild, irreverent, production filled with laughter, lunacy, and cat loving Lieutenants. In which an abundance of blood proves thinner than water when it comes to patriot games or avenging dead cats. Like a tamed episode of The Young Ones, "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" deals in dark, over the top comedy soaked in cartoonish gore. Made all the more enjoyable for taking seriously not taking itself too seriously. A relentless rollercoaster that’s refreshingly unafraid, "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" is an unapologetic joy, locked, stocked and fully loaded with laughter.
"The Lieutenant of Inishmore" by Martin McDonagh, presented by Gaiety Productions, runs at The Gaiety Theatre until March 14.
For more information, visit The Gaiety Theatre.