Wednesday 7 December 2016

The Lonesome West: A dark, mischievous and faithfully rendered iteration of a West End and Broadway hit

The Lonesome West, Theatre 36, Parnell Square Dublin

Published 28/11/2016 | 14:23

Paul McCorry ('Father Welsh') and James McMahon ('Coleman') in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West. Pic: Adrian Weckler
Paul McCorry ('Father Welsh') and James McMahon ('Coleman') in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West. Pic: Adrian Weckler
James McMahon ('Coleman') and Peter Prior ('Valene') in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West. Pic: Adrian Weckler
Marie Ryan as 'Girleen' in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West. Pic: Adrian Weckler

It might seem hard to cock up Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West. Its main characters’ shenanigans are so intrinsically, riotously Irish that even the most basic of amateur productions here might think capable of pulling it off.

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But as any actor knows, there are a thousand ways to ruin this type of dark comedy or make it appear a little laboured.

It’s the ultimate tribute, then, that Parnassus Productions -- under the direction of Clare Gallagher -- makes it look like the easiest thing in the world to pull off a genuinely hilarious version of the play at Theatre 36 in Dublin’s Parnell Square.

Playwright Martin McDonagh could scarcely ask for a more mischievous, faithfully rendered iteration of his West End and Broadway hit.

Marie Ryan as 'Girleen' in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West. Pic: Adrian Weckler
Marie Ryan as 'Girleen' in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West. Pic: Adrian Weckler

At the heart of the play’s success is the extraordinarily vivid performance of the two lead players, Peter Prior and James McMahon, who bounce off each other like the old frenemies they are.

The humour here is as black as the night sky around Leenane, the Connemara village in which the play is contemporaneously set in the 1990s. The second act, in particular, is impossible to sit through without belly laughs flavoured with grinning winces.

James McMahon ('Coleman') and Peter Prior ('Valene') in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West. Pic: Adrian Weckler
James McMahon ('Coleman') and Peter Prior ('Valene') in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West. Pic: Adrian Weckler

The role of Girleen was carried off with insouciance and archness by Marie Ryan. It’s a tribute to both her (and the other actors who played off her) that eyes instantly went to her for reactions whenever she was on stage.

The priest, arguably the hardest of the roles to play because of the straight-man discipline required, was despatched confidently by Paul McCorry.

And the simple set, aided by Amanda Younge’s sound and lighting, in the small Parnell Square theatre suited the scope of the play beautifully.

The play looks likely to go on tour around the country at some point: if it does, do yourself a favour and see it.

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