The final part of Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic Leenane trilogy, Lonesome West is typical of his writing and the black Irish sense of humour. Somehow the tale of two brothers locked in a sibling rivalry so extreme that sabotage, destruction and even murder isn’t beyond them, serves to provide much hilarity, albeit macabre in style.
Set on Ireland’s harsh west coast, as per the two stories before it, in a run down family home, the Connor brothers, Coleman (James O’Connell) and Valene (Mark Diaco) are constantly at one another’s throats. Valene is obsessed by his material possessions, having inherited their father’s entire estate, and is particularly preoccupied with the religious figurines of catholic saints that he collects fervently and labels with his intial. Coleman is a wastrel who spends his days doing little more than eating Valene’s food, reading his magazines and stealing his poteen (Irish moonshine).
Valene vindictively holds his inheritance over Coleman, while Coleman is gleefully destructive in retaliation – or are the behaviours driven the other way around? Father Welsh (Dean Cartmel), the local parish priest, is keen to see the pair cease their unchristian behaviour, but his efforts fall mostly on deaf ears and his own attempts to recover from alcoholism aren’t aided by the brothers’ boozy lifestyle, nor the timid advances of Girleen (Laura Maitland) a local teenager with a crush on the troubled padre.
O’Connell and Diaco work beautifully together, creating an antagonistic realism that sets the wittily black mood of the play. O’Connell in particular is gloriously electric as Coleman – both charming and frighteningly dangerous all at once. Diaco’s naturally handsome allure helps to wash down Valene’s smug, self-righteous character and create something more like an injured litigant.
Cartmel isn’t given much of a run up to find and show Father Welsh’s tortured soul, so when things become too much for the character to bear, it does feel like quite a gear change in dramatic style for the play. Maitland makes the most of her few moments on the stage and gives everything she has to the role, providing a heart-breaking performance.
Direction from John Banas is sharp, precise and wily, allowing the comedy to win through and the complicated fight scenes to be charged with daring energy.
With figurines being smash and melted, stoves exploding and specifically branded products regularly used, this is a play that relies heavily on props, and all effects are achieved with admirable success here. Along with pleasing set designs from Casey-Scott Corless (that have also served duty on the first two productions in the trilogy), Kin Collective have made some highly commendable technical achievements with this show.
While The Leenane Trilogy has a three-week run at fortyfive downstairs, unfortunately that means that each story has only spent a week on stage – far less than they seem to deserve. Hopefully a return season may be somewhere in the pipeline.