Set primarily on the island of Inishmore just off the west coast of Ireland, Martin McDonagh’s 2001 play depicts INLA member Padric’s return home after hearing his beloved cat, Wee Thomas, is sick.
As I sat in the Keble O’Reilly waiting for the show to begin, I was unsure what to expect as I observed the rustic set. A gritty domestic backdrop is maintained for the whole show, which is at times a little underwhelming – but minutes into the first scene it becomes apparent that this is a production with which director Phillippa Lawford has excelled.
This initial scene, which was for me the standout of the play, perfectly encapsulates McDonagh’s dark humour. Hugh Tappin and Aaron Skates shine as Davey and Donny respectively. Their dynamic carries the play forward, their energy and comic delivery nicely interspersed with more morbid moments. The cast deal well with the script, finding the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy, and presenting the audience with a performance in which gratuitous violence is juxtaposed with absurdist humour. It is testament to Lawford’s direction that the cast are able to excellently convey the political undertones and irony of the play: the audience are left reflecting upon a society in which individuals care very little about mindless destruction and the killing of innocent people, but are devastated by the death of a cat.
While it is a brave, and perhaps unavoidable, directorial choice for the cast to adopt Galway accents, at times coherency and clarity is lost in the delivery of lines. Last night the cast occasionally seemed to slip into either Somerset or east coast American accents. Although there is an effective use of fake blood capsules and a consistent costume aesthetic, it is possible that more could have been done with the technical aspects of this production. Limited use of sound, unimaginative lighting and some juvenile-looking props suggest a lack of ambition that ultimately reminds one that this is a student production. However, Lawford and her cast should be commended on a well performed, and consistently very well directed, performance of McDonagh’s fantastically dark and comic script.