I watched most of In Your Face Theatre’s blood-soaked revival of The Lieutenant of Inishmore through a chink in my protective rain poncho. The company’s name should have been a bit of a clue but there really is no subtlety here. There will be blood and it will be in your face. I left the small, plastic covered room (presumably so totally clad in black sheets to help with the clean up as much as the ominous atmosphere) feeling a bit woozy and covered from my eyes to my chin in fake blood. After smugly thinking I’d avoided the worst of it, I got splattered in the last five minutes when one of the characters started cutting up another with a saw less than a metre away from my feet.
As if the bloodshed wasn’t enough, a lot of terrible things happen to cats. It’s probably one to avoid if you’re prone to fainting or a fan of felines but for those feeling brave there’s a lot to enjoy in this brutal performance of Martin McDonagh’s dark and comic glance at The Troubles.
We meet Padraic at his absolute worse – or his best, depending on your stance on Irish rebels. As The Lieutenant of Inishmore opens he’s in the middle of torturing a drug pusher in the name of a free Ireland. Just as he’s about to sever the nipples from the man’s chest he’s interrupted by a phone call. Padraic’s terrifying exterior cracks as he breaks down. It’s bad news: his pet cat is off his food. Hopping on the first boat back to his island hometown in Galway to the aid of Wee Thomas the cat, Padraic meets friends and foes of past and present, including an IRA splinter group with a bone to pick with him.
When the men collide in a gun-toting standoff proceedings quickly descend to hoarse shouting which, when combined with the thick Irish accents of the cast, render some of the scenes barely comprehensible. This is a great shame as there are some stunning and energetic performances – particularly from James Boal as the eye-patched alpha male Christy, and Mark Barrett as an incredibly maniacal Padraic. Christy Russell-Brown is the perfect Mairead, a wiry young girl lost in a hyper-masculine world where it’s totally fine to shoot your own brother in the cheek, especially if he’s a hippy who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.
Sacrificing strong communication of the dialogue in favour of shock and awe in parts is a brave decision and it comes at a cost for this immersive testosterone and blood fest. The Lieutenant of Inishmore is undeniably bold but it could have been spectacular with a bit more finesse.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore is at Hill Street Drama Lodge (Venue 41a) until 24 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.