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Aidan Turner in The Lieutenant Of Inishmore (Photo: Johan Persson)

Reasons to see: The Lieutenant Of Inishmore

Robin Johnson

By Robin Johnson Published 6 July 2018

The Lieutenant Of Inishmore opened at the Noël Coward Theatre earlier this week, transporting audiences to a 1990s Ireland on the early precipice of peace.

There, the play tells the story of Mad Padraic, a terrorist whose means are so twisted, even the IRA wouldn’t have him. What unfolds is an ingenious satire of violence in contemporary culture; here’s why we can’t recommend Michael Grandage’s production enough.

It’s one for dog lovers

The great “cat vs dog person” debate won’t be evenly contested in the Noël Coward Theatre auditorium for weeks.

The events of The Lieutenant Of Inishmore are kick-started by an unfortunate happening for poor ‘Wee Thomas’, and things only really go downhill for the show’s kitty characters from there.

But fear not, feline friends, because there’s also a healthy dose of cat-lover references and kitty-caring tips along the way; anybody whose favourite pet might be suffering from ringworm, or isn’t quite the right colour, or hasn’t had the nutritional benefits of Frosties (disclaimer: there are none), take note.

It’s this kind of deliciously dark and surreal comedy that powers the entire play and leaves you chortling along, right the way through to its grim yet irresistible (feline-featuring) finale.

The cast of The Lieutenant Of Inishmore (Photo: Johan Persson)

The cast of The Lieutenant Of Inishmore (Photo: Johan Persson)

Martin McDonagh’s script

How can themes of ultraviolence, maiming, torture and dodgy 90s hairstyles be so funny? Yet from the pen of Martin McDonagh – whose play was first produced by the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2001 – The Lieutenant Of Inishmore strikes a rare balance between the downright horrifying and the outright hilarious.

The script is pitch-perfect satire: there’s enough meat to the action to deliver its message about the lunacy of terrorism, while there’s more than enough mirth to showcase just how absurd some of the motivations of the era were.

Aidan. Turner.

His star may shot to Hollywood heights in recent years in The Hobbit, and he’s a nationwide favourite as the titular character of the BBC’s Poldark, but it’s on stage where Aidan Turner first cut his teeth as an actor – and his sheer stage presence in this production alone suggests it’s a welcome West End debut for the Irish actor.

Expertly bouncing between fits of violent rage, and moments of sweet remorse for his precious Wee Thomas, the mad glint that Turner carries in his eye is enough to give anybody the heebie jeebies. Just be thankful he’s cut off from you by a protective fourth wall.

Denis Conway, Chris Walley and Aidan Turner in The Lieutenant Of Inishmore (Photo: Johan Persson)

Denis Conway, Chris Walley and Aidan Turner in The Lieutenant Of Inishmore (Photo: Johan Persson)

Guts and glory

No bones about it: The Lieutenant Of Inishmore is about as gory a play as you’ll see on the West End stage today. Blood, guts, eyes, toenails, mullets – nothing is safe from Mad Padraic’s twisted imagination.

Suffice to say, The Lieutenant Of Inishmore carries a 16+ age recommendation, so it’s not necessarily one for the family – but for adults, it’s a delightfully squeamish experience, always funny through its light-hearted approach to shocking on-stage events. If it’s a more mature comedy in the West End you’re after, The Lieutenant Of Inishmore is a top contender.

You simply have to see it

There’s nothing else quite like The Lieutenant Of Inishmore in London theatre right now – and that gives director Michael Grandage’s revival an exciting vivacity.

With an on-form ensemble cast, no-holds-barred staging, heaps of McDonagh surrealism, and one-liners aplenty, The Lieutenant Of Inishmore is so enjoyable, it has to be seen to be believed.

The Lieutenant Of Inishmore is playing at the Noël Coward Theatre until 8 September. Tickets can be booked through the show’s website.

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aidan turner michael grandage Noel Coward Theatre the lieutenant of inishmore