A stronger stomach than is usually called for at The Lyceum may be required if you go to see The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Martin McDonagh’s black – and blood-spattered – comedy, directed by The Lyceum’s Mark Thomson.
Mad Padraic (Peter Campion) tortures drug dealers in warehouses, dreams of setting up a more extreme splinter group from the INLA, and only loves one other living thing: his cat, being looked after back home in Galway by his drunken father, Donny (Christopher Fairbank).
When Wee Thomas is found in the road after having exhausted all nine of his lives, Donny and childish Davey (Rory Murphy) panic, fearing what form of retribution Padraic will visit on them when he returns home to find his beloved moggy buried in the potato patch.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore is typical McDonagh fare: colloquial dialogue that zips past your ear like airgun pellets; and set pieces which veer from the ridiculous to the violent. Some may find a few of the scenes a little extreme; others may find the subject matter – which mostly ridicules the Irish revolutionaries, but at times flirts with romanticising them – not to their taste. It levels any such criticisms itself however, thanks to its comedic power and sheer absurdity.
Lyceum regulars Liam Brennan, Mark Prendergast and Jamie Quinn play a trio of INLA hitmen, and although their accents flit back and forth across the Irish Sea, they relish their gun-toting roles as they attempt to bring the rogue Padraic to heel.
Rose O’Loughlin is Mairead, a tomboyish revolutionary wannabe with a deadly aim, and she plays the borderline psychosis with more convincing menace than Padraic’s larger-than-life caricature killer. That said, Campion has a great deal of fun with his part, all manic stares and quick-draw fury. Fairbank as the poitín-sodden Donny and Murphy as the bicycle-loving Davey put in the best performances, however; an entertaining double act who get most of the best lines and the biggest laughs.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a bold and often hilarious production, pulling no punches as it amuses and entertains throughout. High drama and explorations of the human condition are not to be found here; but a gory black comedy with several standout scenes is lurking in the wings. It’s to Thomson’s credit that he has brought a play as dark and guiltily entertaining as this to the Lyceum’s stage, showing the Edinburgh institution isn’t afraid of putting on something to cater for every taste.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore runs at The Lyceum until 12 May. Ticket information is available on The Lyceum website.