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Review: The Lieutenant of Inishmore, at Noel Coward Theatre

Poldark’s Aidan Turner stars in black comedy about a crazed fanatic in caustic critique of blind adherence to a cause

12 July, 2018 — By Howard Loxton

Aidan Turner – a long way from Ross Poldark’s Cornish home Nampara in The Lieutenant of Inishmore

FANS flocking to see Poldark’s Aidan Turner in Martin McDonagh’s play should be warned that this is no period romance but a savage portrayal of terrorism. It’s more than usually bloody – but also bloody funny if your stomach can stand it.

Turner is Padraic, a crazed fanatic who’s been kicked out of the IRA and the INLA because he’s so brutal. Get caught dealing drugs and he’ll pull out your toenails and chop off your nipples for starters, though smilingly friendly as he does so.

This is a man uninterested in “any social activity that doesn’t involve the freeing of Ulster” but softly sentimental for Wee Thomas, his 15-year old cat, his only real friend since childhood. Both sides of him come together when his father phones him to tell him the cat is ill and he shoots the phone that carried the message.

I remember the RSC 2001 premiere for the savagery of its satire of the dark shadow of terrorism but this production by Michael Grandage sets it up as much broader black comedy with Chris Walley’s not over-bright Davey and Denis Conway as Padraic’s dad stereotypically comic (though with perfect timing).

Turner radiates charisma even when pointing a gun in your face; demented maybe but good-looking and with an almost innocent charm. It’s not surprising that Davey’s sister (Charlie Murphy) fancies him. She’s given to shooting people and cows in the face, but that’s nothing to the behaviour of sinister one-eyed Christy (Will Irvine) who turns up to wreak his own retribution.

The cast perform at full throttle and the laughs keep on coming but behind them is a caustic critique of blind adherence to a cause and the easy acceptance of violence.

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