Nominated for a Tony Award for best Play, The Lonesome West is by contemporary Irish playwright Martin McDonagh and forms part of his Connemara trilogy. Other plays include The Beauty Queen of Leenane and A Skull in Connemara.
Although McDonagh was born and raised in England he is considered to be one of Ireland's most important living playwrights. His parents were Irish – his father from County Galway where McDonagh spent his holidays as a child – just as well as this area is the setting for his Connemara trilogy.
Although part of a trilogy, The Lonesome West sits nicely as an independent work as well as possibly being the lesser performed of the three which works nicely for Director Grant Lepan-Walker. "I particularly like the opportunity to bring this play to the stage because it isn't often performed in Australia," says Lepan-Walker. "Often non-professional theatre will steer away from McDonagh's work because it can be dark and confronting, and at times technically challenging, this play 'suffers' from this and further suffers from being considered the 'third' in a trilogy…when companies go ahead with McDonagh's work they often head for the safer ground of the first play of the trilogy. However, as the trilogy is more thematic than story based an audience can step into this play without any prior knowledge required. So for me this opportunity is about bringing to life a play the deserves to be produced more often than it has been."
Lepan-Walker has always enjoyed Martin McDonagh's work and the attraction lies, at least in part, in their inherent humanity. "His plays, although very 'black' are great comedies," he says, "and I believe what makes them work so well is the element of truth that is at the heart of them. In 'The Lonesome West' there is a great core story about family relationships and the troubles that often go on in families. Those troubles are exaggerated for comedic effect, but when you strip away that exaggeration there is a really true relationship that we can all relate to, and in relating to it we can laugh at it."
This story centres around the constantly arguing brothers Colman and Valene whose father has recently died in a shotgun accident. Valene is only interested in religious ornaments and drinking. Coleman attends funerals to eat free sausage rolls. Living lonely and frustrated lives, they spend their days venting their suppressed dissatisfaction towards each other over seemingly mundane and innocent topics. Only Father Walsh, the alcoholic parish priest is prepared to try and reconcile the brothers before their squabbling ignites the darker recesses of their characters. McDonagh once again sets the stage for lives that are a train-wreck in progress.
Most McDonagh plays require some ingenuity from director, set builders and tech guys to get things right. Challenges for this one, according to Lepan-Walker were two fold. "There are some technical effects that have needed to be solved (don't want to give too much away, but there are some 'random acts of destruction' in this play that are challenging to find a cost effective manner of replicating night after night), and finding a balance between the activity on stage, which is sometimes violent, while keeping the characters likable. Fundamentally this play is about nice people who do not nice things to each other; however, if the audience stops thinking of the characters as nice people then the play loses some of it's comic nature," he says.
Lepan-Walker has been a member of the 1812 Theatre for about 20 years and when asked to submit plays for consideration for the 2012 season his belief was that this play would be too controversial and least likely to make it through. But luckily for him, and for this play, the committee and the theatre board saw the same things that he did and were willing to give it a go.
McDonagh is a first rate playwright with an ability to make the audience care about his characters and their lives. Lepan -Walker's hope is that audiences enjoy the play and have a good night out where they can escape their lives for a couple of hours. "Unless you are easily offended by contemporary language and stylised violence come along and see a great cast and crew put on a great production of a great play," he says. "This is a play that you probably haven't seen before and that you won't get to see every day of the week……and it is very, very funny. If afterwards it inspires some people to be a little less petty in their actions that's an extra bonus."
SEASON; Oct 11th – Nov 3rd.
Tue, Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat, 8.00pm
Sunday Matinee Oct 14th & 21st. 4.00pm
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