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Mad, sinister and deliciously dark

MARTIN McDonagh doesn't do subtle. It would be more than enough for most dramatists to inform their audience of a teenager's gruesome murder by showing us the killer with blood on their hands. That's exactly what happens in A Skull in Connemara. However, just as widower Mick Dowd prepares to hand himself over to the authorities, in walks the 'dead' victim, sporting a large gash on his noggin.

How is the lad still alive? Well, Martin McDonagh doesn't do logic, either. The bigger question is – what happened to Mick's late wife, Oona? Did she really die in that car crash, or did her husband raise a fist to her beforehand? Either way, he had something to do with it (a drunken Mick was the one driving).

The lesser-performed play in McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy, A Skull in Connemara concerns itself with a gravedigger (Mick) whose job it is to exhume the bones of those seven years deceased at the local cemetery (to make room for the newcomers). It's seven years since his wife's death and the mystery surrounding it is something that continues to trouble Garda Thomas Hanlon. A horrifying discovery six foot deep leads to a series of unfortunate events.


A twisted and deliciously dark production – witty in all the wrong places and hilarious in all the right ones – it takes a grisly set-up and bookends it with all the simplicities of country life in the early 1990s.

Mick (a solid Garrett Keogh) will torture his troublesome teenage helper, Mairtin (a super Jarlath Tivnan) with made-up stories about what happens when we die, before later engaging in a poitin-soaked, skull-smashing session with the boy (brilliantly sound-tracked by a Dana record). It's the same for neighbour Mary (Maria McDermottroe), who drops by Mick's for a nightly weather bulletin before quizzing him about Oona's death.

Full marks to those in the Decadent Theatre Company's set design department – the scene during which Mick goes to work is as effective for its humour (an asthmatic smoker, garda Hanlon, kicking his brother into a grave) as it is for its glorious, movie-like setting. Sure, it's all a bit barmy and a tad long-winded, but boy, is it entertaining. HHHHI

Running until Sunday