Jul 6th, 2018
I always have mixed feelings about seeing any production that has a big star attached - you never know which way it's going to go and if star-power will outshine substance. Luckily, with the Duke of York's The Lieutenant of Inishmore, my concerns were (mostly) unfounded. Widely publicised as a dark comedy, Martin McDonagh's play is very much that - it's very funny, and very dark. The title role is played by Aidan Turner, famous for his turn in the BBC's period drama Poldark and quite obviously the main drawcard for the predominantly middle-aged audience who laugh at each of his character's comedic deliveries with equal amounts of awe and authenticity.
I must admit here, I too was drawn to the play by the prospect of seeing the angel-faced actor play a terrorist deemed "too mad" to join the IRA. And I was not left disappointed, Turner's blood-stained vest and gun holster quickly erasing any traces of the gentlemanly Poldark from his smile. The play itself works on the juxtaposition of sentiment and extreme violence, the love for one's cat versus drawn-out torture. And I wonder if this production would have been anywhere as successful had someone with a less squeaky clean public image played the lead of Mad Padraic.
The production has been a tremendous commercial success and rightly so as it is a very entertaining piece of theatre. This is thanks also to the brilliant cast and excellent set design. I did, however, find myself wanting more at the end. A lot has changed in the 17 years since it was written and, for me at least, the 'terrorists' the play subverts aren't the stuff of IRA stories, these days they're impacting the ebb and flow of the West End itself. The quaint cottage-setting felt a far cry from a city where bollards are now a common sight in an effort to prevent pavement van attacks. In this sense, it felt more a darkly comedic exploration of violence than a thought-provoking satire on terrorism, and I can't help but wonder which of the two our society really needs.
View our show pages for more information about The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Noel Coward Theatre.
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