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A CurtainUp London Review
The Lieutenant of Inishmore

"Do you know how many cats Oliver Cromwell killed in his time?" — Christy
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Chris Walley as Davey, Aidan Turner as Padraic and Denis Conway as Donny (Photo: Johan Persson)
Martin McDonagh has recently made Hollywood news with his Academy Award winning film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I remember clearly seeing his The Lieutenant of Inishmore by when it first came to London in 2001 from Stratford upon Avon where it had premiered with the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is now rarely produced and seeing Michael Grandage's excellent production with brilliant design by Christopher Oram, it is hard to think why?

The BBC's popular star of Poldark, Aidan Turner is a sure fire draw as Padraic, McDonagh's Irish terrorist bomber known for a love of cats and bombing chip shops. Turner's television filming commitments mean he has only the summer free to commit to the stage.

In many ways London has moved on from the wave of Irish terrorism and instead the terrorist threats have come from Islamist Jihad normalising civilian targets, Spanish Tapas bars and Borough Market pubs and restaurants replacing chip shops. This play has the most violent scenes in it, authentic carnage across the stage in the home of Padraic and his father Donny (Denis Conway) but is profoundly anti-violence.

Save the names of the actors, what I said about the 2001 play stands to summarise the current production go here. The audience are no longer shocked as the familiarity of the handsome Aidan Turner takes the edge off some of the would be chilling violence. We are watching a laugh out loud comedy on violence and the insane justification behind it. It is a clever piece of casting and there is no doubt about the soundness of the Southern Irish accents.

Donny's sidekick in the first scene is Davey (Chris Walley) with ginger mullet, short curls on top and and long waves beneath and his girlie pink push bike. It is Davey who, at best, has found the body of Padraic's "only friend in the world now", his black cat, Wee Thomas. At worst, Davey has killed the cat but what both men are terrified of, is the vengeance Padraic will wreak when he learns of the loss of his pet. Much of the comedy centres on their attempt to escape retribution.

There is a great build up to Padraic's first entrance in the second scene where James (Brian Martin) hangs upside down with his toenails being removed as a punishment for selling drugs to schoolchildren. We have already heard that the IRA have turned down Padraic's application for membership because they thought him too mad.

As Padraic encounters Mairead (Charlie Murphy) the girl wannabe terrorist with short hair and camouflage uniform, we see a different side to the all hard talk man. She sings from Dominic Behan's "The Patriot Game" and he is won over, kisses her and walks off with a jubilant slouch with his shoulders conveying a sexual awakening of success with a girl.

Act Two has a no expense spared slaughterhouse scene, part of Oram's detailed design, and the wonderful line from Donny, "It's incidents like this that puts tourists off Ireland!" I shall not give any more of the dark denouement away. Aidan Turner is outstanding as Padraic, violent, charismatic and deranged. All the cast have stupid emblazoned on their foreheads and we are pretty sure violence is not the way to win a cause. Do not miss this wonderful comedy!

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The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Michael Grandage
Starring: Aidan Turner
With: Denis Conway, Will Irvine, Brian Martin, Charlie Murphy, Daryl McCormack, Julian Moore-Cook, Chris Walley
Design: Christopher Oram
Lighting Design: Neil Austin
Composer and Sound Design: Adam Cork
Running time: One hour 40 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 08444 825 151
Booking to 8th September 2018
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 5th July 2018 performance at the Noel Coward, St Martin's Lane, London WC 2N 4AU (Tube: Leicester Square)
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