Irish eyes aren't always smiling

The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh at Colchester Mercury until May 2.They're tough, mighty tough in the west. These are people you mess with at your peril.

David Henshall

The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh at Colchester Mercury until May 2.

They're tough, mighty tough in the west. These are people you mess with at your peril. The goalkeeper's in intensive care and they issued five red cards at the football game - and that was just the girl's match.

God has no jurisdiction in this place, says the parish priest. And he should know. Father Welsh was teetotal until he took over the place and now he's rarely sober.


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He certainly has a hard religious row to hoe because Leenane, this small town in the west of Ireland, is laughingly known as the murder capital of Europe. Sudden death is a bit of a local hazard.

We meet Father Welsh back from yet another funeral. They have planted the father of the Connor brothers, Coleman and Valene, Coleman having blown dad's head off in a shooting accident at home.

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The priest is having a crisis of faith. One of many. Wherever he looks there is sin and blasphemy and he fears, with every justification, that he is able to do precious little about it.

People laugh at him, codding him they call it, even the pretty Girleen (Valene Kane) who peddles her father's illegally-brewed poteen round the streets. He is shocked when she tells him she is ready to sell her body for money and then she giggles and says, “Just codding.”

But the Connor brothers are Father Welsh's biggest challenge. They are always at each other's throats, quarrelling over anything and everything, goading, lying and spoiling for a fight.

And when they brawl, it's mean, no-holds-barred stuff and the furniture gets thrown around which is slightly worrying for the audience who, as this show is presented in the round, are pretty close to the action.

David Tarkenter and Ignatius Anthony are first class as Coleman and Valene, filled with vicious malice and hilarious black humour as poor Father Welsh - a strong performance from Stephen Cavanagh - tries to get them to mend their ways and love each other as brothers should.

They make it doubly difficult for him by admitting that blowing dad's head off was no accident, but the priest then stakes his soul on reforming them and the fun really starts.

It would be a shame to give away more of the plot but suffice it to say that, in an occasionally moving piece, the jokes keep coming, lots of it dark stuff and you sometimes can't believe that you are laughing at it. But you do.

David Henshall.

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