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  • Chris O'Rourke

The Lonesome West

Frankie McCafferty, Art Campion and Denis Conway in The Lonesome West. Image by Ste Murray


Leenane. A town where murder, suicide and cruelty are local pastimes. Where calf eyed tomboys moon after impossible lovers. Where brothers fight like demons in their own inner circle of hell. Leaving a maudlin priest finding faith too much of an ask. In Martin McDonagh's classic The Lonesome West, Leenane is where murdered dogs and dreams of happiness go to die. A town where a little kindness goes a long way, especially when laced with spite. Its nasty, mean-spirited, tightfisted community more at ease with a shotgun than a show of affection. All made irresistibly funny in this infectiously hilarious production.

Zara Devlin and Art Campion in The Lonesome West. Image by Ste Murray

Arguably the darkest and most comedic of McDonagh's Connemara tales, The Lonesome West tells a simple story and tells it majestically well. Like The Odd Couple on steroids, brothers Coleman and Val find themselves at lifelong loggerheads. Stuck in the same house together now their father has died, old antagonisms, Tayto crisps and religious figurines fan their poitin fuelled hatred to flaring point. Only a man laying down his life for his friends might give them a chance at redemption. Begging the question, what's so great about peace, love and understanding?

Frankie McCafferty and Art Campion in The Lonesome West. Image by Ste Murray

Under Andrew Flynn's fluid direction, action is played for laughs rather than pathos, teasing out the plays comic measure in favour of its more tender subtleties. If this affects pacing and depth a little, with a cast this good you don't feel it too much. Zara Devlin's Girleen, the only woman in this world of sad men, captures the strength and tenderness needed to survive, even if it leaves her heart vulnerable to breaking. Art Campion as Father Walsh, sorry Welch, is extraordinary as the maudlin martyr without a clue. Driven to despair by the chalk and cheese chemistry between the chaotic Coleman and Val. Denis Conway and Frankie McCafferty respectively turning in superb individual performances. The complimentary interplay between Conway and McCafferty almost a character in itself, making the whole experience a joy to watch. Viciousness was never this much fun.

Denis Conway and Frankie McCafferty in The Lonesome West. Image by Ste Murray

First produced in 1997 some topical gags and wonderful irreverences might seem a little dated, but The Lonesome West bears up remarkably well twenty-five years on. Assisted, in this instance, by impressive production values from Jamie Vartan's set, Ciaran Bagnall's lights, Sinead Cuthbert's costumes to Carl Kennedy's slyly satirical score. And to the sheer joy of sharing laughter out loud in a full theatre again. If that's your thing, The Lonesome West delivers some of the best fun you'll have had in a theatre in a long time.

The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh, presented by Gaiety Productions, runs at The Gaiety Theatre until March 19.

For more information, visit The Gaiety Theatre.


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