Although one might not expect a tale of Irish terrorism to make entertaining viewing, Martin McDonagh's black comedy does manage to tread a fine line between terror and humour. By allowing us to laugh at situations of mindless violence and by depicting terror groups as comedy characters McDonagh enables the audience to confront issues that might otherwise prove too uncomfortable.
The play is set in rural Ireland; the idyllic Ireland we all think of from films like The Quiet Man. Here we have a village of eccentrics which has also managed to spawn a small Republican terrorist group. The story revolves around a planned show down between three members of the group and the one man splinter group 'mad' Padraic (Barry Ward) the maddest terrorist of all who attempts to blow up chip shops (because they're not well guarded) and pulls the toe-nails from drug dealers.
The play is neither anti-English nor pro-Irish; that it is set against a backdrop of the 'troubles' is clear, but what it says about the nature of terrorism and terrorists could apply equally to other conflicts.
A warning: The production include guns, exploding effects, dummy bodies and blood. This gives a flavour of the setting; think Sam Pekinpah with cats. Strange though it may sound, central to the plot are the characters’ cats and it is easy to tell the cat lovers in the audience - they are the ones covering their eyes. Don't be put off though, the laughter is genuine and continuous throughout as these wild characters show us a world we can only hope doesn't really exist.
However, the play lacks pace and a certain edge, this is not helped by the scene changes which are too long. There is also a tension between the comedy and the violence, with the performers never convincing fully of their aggressive tendencies.
These are minor gripes though and you'll enjoy this production for its many good points, some super moments and the surprise in the last scene which really steals the show.
- Robert Iles (reviewed at Bath Theatre Royal)