Martin McDonagh’s sensational play, THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE, features desperate violence, mindless sectarianism and cruelty to cats. But that hasn’t stopped the abrasive playwright becoming the toast of the West End. \‘t’orris: Steve Cramer
re we ready tor the violent bigotr) and mindless sectar'ianism'.’ ('an we reall_v tolerate the loul and abusive language and the disgraceful excess'.’ Yes. I'm sure you'll have read quite enough about the lirst ()ld liirm clash of the season already but another event on that same topic might he the arrival in Scotland. at’ter so rrruch sensation. condemnation and praise. of The Lieutenant o/‘Inrs/rmm‘e. Martin McDonagh‘s p|a_v tells the .stor_v ol’ a voting Irish terrorist \vho's so unstable that even the l.\'l..»\ has expelled him into his ovvn splinter group. No respecter' of human lil‘e. the somevvhat hard-ol-thinking Padraig is nevertheless ver_v attached to his cat. Thomas. lnterrtrpted in the middle ol the ghastlv torture of a drug dealer. Padraig learns that Thomas is ill. In fact the tirst thing vve see in the plav is the cat. dead as a herring. but t'olk are too at'raid to break the ncvvs to the ps_v cho. vvho sets oll'on a bloody rampage. I'll tell )titr no more l‘or' tear of spoiling the ending. but _vou might be surprised to hear that this piece is very. ver_v funny. as bleak a corned} as vou'll see. But as fascinating as the pla_v is. the slot'} of its production is nearl_v as intriguing. lt' reputation is anvthing to go b_v. Martin McDonagh is capable of starting a light on an emva continent. He became famous for a t'racas vvith Sean (‘orrnerv a l‘evv _vears back. btrt similar confrontations seem to have occurred in ever} other social encounter the man has had. For a long period alter its corruXisition. such vvas the subject matter of The Lieutenant that no West lind management vvould produce it. despite .\lcl)onagh's proven track record of
bankabilitv with such acclaimed work as The Beautv Queen at
Leettane and .-\ Skull in (‘anantata McDonagh modestly
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declared his pla} better than an) in the West lind. condemning the producers there as 'gutlcss and Id} -livcred' l'or not vvanting to touch it.
liinall}. a couple ol' )L‘ill‘\ back. the RSV agreed to produce it at Stratl'ord. and l‘rom there it transtcrred to London‘s Barbican. .\lcl)onagh‘s gratitude knevv no end. as he gracel‘ull} declared his pla_\ superior to 'ever} other stupid tucking pla_v the RSV did in Ziltll‘. Well. roll over. Bill} Shakespeare. Alter the Bar'bican. The Lieutenant got its \Vest lind transler. and has. it‘s got to be admitted. pla'vcd to large and suitabl} scandalised houses ever since.
\thn l asked the 'l'heatre RU};1l inn tltillltl lttlsil} engaged in shoring tip the building's loundations. not so much tor the plat as .\lcl)onaglr himsell'l l vv as told he \\ as unavailable l'or intervievv. 'l‘his rallrer begged the question ol \vhether | actuall} vsanted to chat with him. l’er'haps t‘or'tuitousl'v. l vvas instead oll‘ered the t‘or'rnidable director. Wilson .\lilam.
.\lilam is alread} \\ ell knovv n tor directing one sensationall} blood} hit. Ail/er Joe. on both the West lind and Broadvva}. and Scottish audiences ma} also remember last )L‘ar's .llr I’laee/m at the 'l'raverse. I'd seen .\lilam lrorn a distance on that occasion. and thought I knevv \th} the RS(' had selected him to direct .\lcl)onagh‘s pla}: standing abotit six loot si\ and built like a slime eltltlge}. he looked like the kind ot'guv even .\lcl)onagh vvouldn't pick a tight vs ith.
But I don't think this \vas the reason. He ansvvers the phone vvith something ot' a start. ‘()h ses. I talked to some people about _vou. and the} said I r'eall} had to get _vou.‘ lt rrrade rrre l'eela little like Michael ('aine‘s ('ar'ter. 'l'h . . . bill I