The Kin Collective brings Martin McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy of plays to 45downstairs later this month. Green Room Award nominee James O’Connell talks about the third play in the trilogy, The Lonesome West.
O'Connell plays Coleman Conner – one half of the dysfunctional siblings who take out their frustrations on one another and the world in general. O'Connell tells me Connor is a brutish larrikin with a penchant for eating voluvants. At the commencement of the play he has just returned from his father's funeral with the local priest Father Welsh and his brother Valene.
The brothers have successfully dispatched of their father and are now ready to enjoy the spoils but things in a McDonagh play are never that simple. This is another no holds barred script set in the far from idyllic Irish town of Leenane where torture, cruelty, and down right nastiness is the norm.
McDonagh's imaginary world here is without a doubt harrowing and bleak but O'Connell is quick to identify the beauty and redemption in it.
"There a few references in the play to the boys early childhood. To me this was their only time of innocence," explains O'Connell. "Something went very wrong. And for me this play is about their struggle since. Coleman uses everything in his arsenal to protect himself, he is vicious, manipulative and vindictive. Pierce through his armour though and I think you'll find a scared little boy. And the scene between the 17 year old school girl and the 35 year old drunk priest. Doesn't sound like a likely place for beauty but you'd be surprised."
McDonagh explores familiar themes in The Lonesome West – family, loyalty, betrayal, love, isolation, loneliness – are also themes that run through the first two plays in the series. Themes that make for rich fodder for the playwright, actors and creatives as well as Melbourne audiences – O'Connell describes these themes as borderless and therefore accessible to all.
O'Connell comes to this project fresh from his Green Room Award nominations: Male Performer (independent) for Danny and the Deep Blue Sea for his company PONY.CHILD theatre; and Best Ensemble (independent) for SAVAGES for fortyfivedownstairs. SAVAGES also received Best Production (independent)
"I was pretty chuffed to be nominated twice in my first year out of drama school," O'Connell says. " The nomination for Danny was a real treat, it was PONY.CHILD's first show and my partner Olivia and I just wanted to do it because we loved the play. More plays should be done for this reason. And working with Bridget Balodis is something everyone should do."
Speaking about SAVAGES, O'Connell tells me that multi- award winning playwright Patricia Cornelius is his favourite Australian playwright. "Working with her and the team on SAVAGES 6 months after doing a scene from her play 'The Call' in my VCA showcase was an absolute treat," he says.
The Leenane Trilogy plays at fortyfivedownstairs May 29 – June 14. According to O'Connell it will be a feast of great plays, great venue, great team and great actors.
"A rare chance to see 3 plays of the Leenane Trilogy. And $85 for all 3? Enough change to shout me a pint after the show!"
But only if you dare!
Photo: John Lloyd Fillingham