Friday, 28 August 2015

The Lonesome West - Everyman

Martin McDonagh's tale of warring brothers takes to the Everyman's stage in Cork in a new production by Blood in the Alley. The last of McDonagh's Leenane trilogy, The Lonesome West begins on the day of a funeral; the father of two brothers, Colman and Valene, who was shot in the head by Colman in what he describes as a pure accident, triggering a downward spiral in Colman and Valene's relationship. Well... it would have triggered their falling out if they hadn't despised one another from the time they were children.

Martin Lucey (Colman) and Denis Foley (Valene) complement each other perfectly in the brothers petty battles. Lucey's laid back taunting and Foley's tightly wound fussiness make their interactions immediately attention grabbing. For all their pettiness and violence, the brothers almost appear to enjoy this: the taunting over poitín, the statue smashing; it's as if they simply wait for opportunities like this to appear and explode at one another. Rowan Finken (Father Welsh) and Féadha ní Chaoimhe (Girleen) also give solid performances, though, ní Chaoimhe fairs better with Girleen's sensitive side more so than her filthy mouthed, poitín slinging side.

Beyond the performances the play suffers from crippling issues. Scenes are broken up by dimmed lights and music which make the scenes feel very disconnected. It doesn't help that during these breaks stage hands appear to make very minor changes. This coupled with the semi-constructed set makes it seem as if director Geoff Gould was attempting some Brechtian style illusion shattering, though what benefit that would be to this play is highly questionable. This issue is most likely brought on by a failure to overcome a  difficulty in the script, this difficulty being the small number of characters and locations which means for very limited options when it comes to transitions.

The script is something of a double edged sword for this production. While it made for pacing issues, it's also incredibly funny; the relentless quips, slapstick and bottom-of-the-well darkness of this script will leave you breathless from laughter, as long as you're not overly fond of religious icons and dogs.  While it's a mixed bag of a production, the performances and sharpness of the script overcome its unevenness.

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