‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ was bloody.
Blood-splattering special effects, abstract sets and some creative lighting transformed USQ Arts Theatre into an array of Irish locations for Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy, ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’. Presented by USQ School of Creative Arts, the piece included both current and graduate students from the university, and was directed by the award-winning Jason Klarwein.
First produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2001, ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ has received numerous awards over the past two decades, including a Critic’s Circle Theatre Award and Laurence Olivier Award for the 2018 West End Revival. Set in the 1990s, the plot follows a pair of doofuses, Donny and Davey, as they try to cover up the death of a cat belonging to Donny’s brother, Mad Padraic. Comedic chaos ensues, as the story plays out against the backdrop of the Northern Ireland peace process.
Set design included a large white diamond into the corner and across the stark black stage and walls. Miscellaneous furniture sprinkled the walls, including two sofas, a cupboard and a cabinet. A second level included a warehouse-style balcony and hoist, used to full effect in a torture scene. Lighting design was most effective in the dock scene, in which the majority of the stage was transformed into ocean, and the outer flooring became a dock. Warm orange LEDs flooded in from the doorways in a lamp-like fashion, and blue ripple lights from the ceiling created the water. Costumes were mostly suited to the period; however, given the abstract nature of the set, could have been more cohesive and creative. Set, lighting and costume designers were not credited in the programme.
Props were very well executed in this production, with the use of guns throughout and fake cats that were tortured, killed and maimed. Blood splatters were used to effect, with the believable gun murders of key characters. Warnings were given prior to the show, but the nature of the plot is not suitable to all audiences.
Direction, by Klarwein, considered the large half-circle performance space, establishing clear purpose for the various doors and ensuring the small cast was not lost in the large open centre. Wren Condren, dialect and cultural consultant, did well to coach the performers on Irish accents. On balance, the cast were strong and consistent; however, occasionally some performers slipped into Scottish and Welsh.
The show had some mishaps, such as slips or prop drops, and it would have been nice to see the performers play this off rather than ignore the mistakes. In an exaggerated comedy such as this one, breaking character could have added even more humour, in a Saturday Night Live style.
Tobias Paull and Logan Cruice were exceptional in their respective roles as Davey and Donny. The duo had good chemistry and were able to play off of one another. Both were consistent in their accent work, and aced their physical comedy moments.
Griffin Walsh, Jack Waters and Luke Webb made for a humorous trio of Irish National Liberation Army members. Their dialogue was natural and well paced, and all three managed to share the stage in an engaging and skilled way. Webb’s accent was particularly well developed, and all three did justice to their roles.
Completing the cast were Emily Clark as the action-seeking Mairead and Gabrial Wighton as the insane Padraic. Clark and Wighton made funny choices and handled the challenging roles well.
Due to the violent nature of the piece, and the graphic way in which the prop animals were treated, the use of a real cat in the final scene was slightly questionable and possibly unnecessary.
Overall, however, the piece was a good-humoured and light-hearted evening of fun. Audible laughter and gasps were heard throughout, and some audience members finished with a standing ovation. The entire cast and crew are to be applauded on a competent rendition of the piece.
‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ performed until October 9th at USQ Arts Theatre. For more information visit USQ School of Creatives Arts website.
Photos sourced from USQ School of Creative Arts’ Facebook.