Review Round-Ups

Did the critics get catty about The Lieutenant of Inishmore?

Martin McDonagh’s piece was revived in the West End by the Michael Grandage Company

Denis Conway (Donny), Chris Walley (Davey), Aidan Turner (Padraic)
Denis Conway (Donny), Chris Walley (Davey), Aidan Turner (Padraic)
© Johan Persson

Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage


"When Martin McDonagh's jet-black, bloody farce premiered back in 2001, the ink on the Good Friday Agreement was just about dry. Peace seemed to be holding, but how long for, who could say? So the notion of roasting the sh*t out of the IRA must have felt wildly dangerous. Today, The Lieutenant of Inishmore merely seems a bit daft."

"By today's standards, it all seems a bit tame. By stressing Padraic's virtue and vanity, Aidan Turner softens his threat and, on Christopher Oram's somewhat flimsy fake-stone set, with cat corpses that look like bloodied teddy bears, it hasn't the livewire danger to set an audience on edge. Rather than ricocheting around like a firework, Grandage's production's content to go at a caper; too studio sitcom to muster a spark. Denis Conway deadpans down pat as Padraic's dad, Will Irvine's one-eyed hitman finds the stupidity of menace and RADA grad Walley makes a promising goofy debut, but like bin blasts and bomb threats, McDonagh's satire now feels old hat."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph


"Turner's intense stare carries a surprising amount of charge away from the small-screen. What's more of a revelation, though, is his capacity to turn on a sixpence between hard-man and cry-baby – the deadpan effect at once comical and disquieting."

"As Padraic coolly heads home to run amok in a tumbledown kitchen (set by Christopher Oram), the tension mounts, the plot thickens and McDonagh's inventively oddball dialogue (suggestive of low IQs as a societal standard) achieves its fecund (and "fecking"-crammed) zenith. He may have produced more sophisticated plays since this one, but has he concocted anything more shocking, silly, and audacious than the clinch he engineers in the climactic shootout? "

Ann Treneman, The Times


"It's a violent play, first seen in 2001, that is anti-violence, a play about war that is anti-war.

"But, actually it's mostly about cats. And no, that is not code."

"The island cottage set, by Christopher Oram, feels a bit sitcom but in a good way. There is no weak link in the cast. Turner is hilarious to watch and Will Irvine is particularly good as the one-eyed INLA member who has a cunning plan.

"The play does take a while to warm up but catches fire in the second half when, amazingly, McDonagh introduces a romantic element in the form of a local lass who wears camo and likes to shoot cows."

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard


"Martin McDonagh's play, revived by director Michael Grandage as a blend of bloodbath and cartoon caper, pokes fun at the more demented forms of political extremism, and as the body parts pile up Turner switches nimbly between dead-eyed coolness and twinkly volatility."

"The play seems less edgy than it did when it premiered in 2001 and would feel more taut here without a superfluous interval. But the jokes still crackle, as if Father Ted has collided with Reservoir Dogs — or perhaps, more accurately, Reservoir Cats."

Charlie Murphy in The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Charlie Murphy in The Lieutenant of Inishmore
© Johan Persson

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"I vividly recall the outrage the play originally caused. I remember an Irish critic fuming at what he saw as a slur on his nation and I had cat-loving friends who were equally incensed. Both parties were offended by a plot in which "mad Padraic", a violent member of a republican splinter group, returns to his native Inishmore to find that his beloved cat, Wee Thomas, is deader than any doornail."

"McDonagh's real gift, however, is for pushing a situation to its most brutal extreme, and being funny with it. This is Titus Andronicus played for laughs."

"My abiding image, however, is of Turner caressing his dead cat with a tendresse he never displays to humans. Charlie Murphy as the girl for whom he finally falls, Chris Walley as her hapless brother and Denis Conway as Padraic's dad all give good support. Although I could have done without an interval, this strikes me as a first-rate revival of a play that still instructively shocks."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"Grandage doesn't direct many comedies these days, but he's a typically dab hand. He and his team deftly marshal the mounting carnage, and there's some beautiful work early on in the torture scene, when Brian Martin's trussed up dealer James tries to skitter away from Padraic on his hands, almost balletic."

"When Chris Walley's brilliantly hapless Davey asks at the end whether it was all pointless or not, it is very apparent that it definitely was – and there is a sort of bleak poetry in the total futility of the play's events."

"In a uniformly strong cast, special praise should go to Walley. A virtual newcomer, he is excruciatingly brilliant as the bemulleted Davey, who meets each new indignity heaped upon him with an impressive mix of resignation and hysteria, both of which somehow conspire to rise in pitch as the show wears on."

Ben Brantley, New York Times

"Mr Grandage, whose self-named production company did a marvellous revival of Mr McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan four years ago, has created a subversively sentimental frame for this frightening mind-set. Christopher Oram has designed a picturesque, if slovenly, storybook cottage of a set. And Adam Cork's music is full of the blarney of Celtic lilt. Not for nothing is the nationalist ballad "The Patriot Game" intoned throughout, as the sense of an anarchic game divorced from rules and context grows ever stronger."

"It's the casting of Mr. Turner, though, that lifts this production into its own special universe of razor-edged inanity. His Padraic is as smolderingly virile as his Poldark. With flashing eyes that tear up at the drop of a cat and a muscular frame made for monument-worthy poses, this Padraic is a strutting contradiction of attraction and repulsion, daring us to question our conventional notions of the heroic."

"At a time when senseless shootings have become almost numbingly commonplace, and nationalism is dividing a nation, Mr McDonagh's Inishmore is looking a lot more like the United States than it ever has before."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage


"Grandage is not going for subtlety here. The jokes are rammed home, the cartoonish comedy delivered with the force of a nail-gun. As with his 2013 production of The Cripple of Inishmann, this feels a bit like McDonagh-as-star-vehicle, rather than disrupter and satirist. The play is robbed of some of its satiric power – it's red in tooth but not in claw."

"The performances are in keeping with the tone of the text. A white-vested Turner is impressive as Padraic, combining charisma with volatility and, underneath that, an endearing goofiness. Chris Walley, only just out of RADA, makes a notable debut as Davey, the gormless, ginger-mulleted spawn of Father Dougal and Mickey from the League of Gentlemen. His comic timing is impeccable. Charlie Murphy does wonders with the character of Mairead, the teenage would-be freedom fighter who prides herself on being able to put out a cow's eyes with her rifle, the sole woman in this world of violent men."