by Teofil Camarasu
Upon arriving to watch a dress rehearsal of the The Lieutenant of Inishmore, I was told that I would be watching the first run of the show with genuine fake blood (until then they had used water instead). The first row of seats had provisionally been designated a splash-zone, and was covered in plastic to protect the upholstery. Although their concern for the seating proved unnecessary, the show did not disappoint in delivering its fair share of intensely chaotic violence, suffused with dark humour.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore follows the aftermath of the death of Wee Thomas, a cat belonging to Padraic (Christopher Page). Padraic is a member of the INLA (after having been deemed too mad to join the IRA), who is defined by his two great passions: the liberation of Ireland from British rule, and his love of his cat. Page succeeds in portraying Padraic as both terrifyingly psychopathic and mercurial, to great comedic effect.
Dealing with the death of Wee Thomas is the task of Donny (Aaron Skates) and Davey (Hugh Tappin), whose deadpan banter provides the comedic backbone of the play, as they try desperately to avoid mad Padraic’s wrath.
The entire cast is vibrant and has excellent comedic chemistry. The staging is clear and expressive. I particularly found their use of a lime whitewash wall helpful in invoking the atmosphere of rural West Ireland.
The play is as poignant as it is comic; a closer reading of the play will pose serious questions, such as whether the taking of innocent lives can ever be justified. It subtly alludes to issues in Irish society such as patriarchy and homophobia. For instance, while the INLA credits itself as fighting for the liberation of all of Ireland, they exclude both women and the LGBT community from taking part in their struggle.
At the heart of The Lieutenant of Inishmore is the confluence of hilarity and brutality. Containing torture, death, implied animal cruelty, and a lot of swearing, it might not be for the faint of heart. But if you are looking for a hilarious dark comedy, it is well worth a watch.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore is showing in the Keble O’Reilly theatre from Wednesday to Saturday of 5th Week