The Lonesome West review – ‘a pressure-cooker of rage and almost-erupting violence’

Practically Peter Production give an impressive rendering of Martin McDonagh's dark comedy

Photo: Practically Peter Productions

“The white-haired old ghoulish fecking whore. She’s owed me the price of a pint since nineteen-seventy-fecking-seven. It’s always tomorrow with that bitch. I don’t care if she does have Alzheimer’s”.

The intimacy of the Burton Taylor Studio thrusts you instantly into the twisted morality of the Connor home, where patricide is met with shrugs and mild reproach, and a gun is drawn over the disfigurement of some plastic figurines. Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West, the last in a blackly comic trilogy set in the fictional Connemara town of Leenane, contains many of his reliably entertaining tropes – a harassed priest, familial hatred, a butchered animal companion – all rendered in comically overblown Hiberno-English. The brothers Coleman (Cameron Forbes) and Valene (Roman Marshall) are joined intermittently by Father Welsh (Celeb Barron) a despondent priest trying to inject some morality into the residents of the “fecking murder capital of Europe”, and the precocious Girleen (Lara Deering), a school-aged poitín-dealer.

The standout performance came from Roman Marshall’s original take on the tight-fisted brother Valene, who lurches terrifyingly from weedy pettiness to moments of grinning menace. His handle on accent and timing is impressive. His oily fussiness works well as a counterpart to Cameron Forbes’ wide-eyed and gormless Coleman, who manages to deliver aggressive misanthropy quite endearingly. The duo’s interactions provide the most pleasing scenes in the play. The supreme effort required by each to have a discussion not erupting into violence is communicated in an uproariously funny way. That the profundity contained in the exaggerated vernacular is also thoughtfully brought forward is a credit to co-directors and producers Joel Stanley and Joe Woodman.

Lara Derring is compelling as soon as she arrives onstage, and delivers a superb performance as the most complex and self-aware character in the play. The adolescent pain of her emotional climax is very moving. Caleb Barron’s turn as the withdrawn and melancholy Father Welsh also provokes a lot of laughter. Idiom proved both the biggest challenge and the greatest help to the production. Where the actors occasionally struggled to get their mouths around the language, a fact which robbed some lines of their full force, the playwright’s genius for comic phrasing was rarely lost, and McDonagh’s excellent dialogue still landed well throughout. It is a shame that dialogue was sometimes rushed when a more measured delivery might have been more effective. However, all of them eased into it as the show went on, a fact which bodes well for the coming performances.

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In a play imbued with references to chance, where fraternal squabbling flares up and de-escalates seemingly at random, the tension in the BT rises along with the temperature, not unlike a stove set needlessly to gas mark 10. The decision to forgo an intermission creates a pressure-cooker of rage and almost-erupting violence which comes to an excellent comic climax. Overall, this is a promising debut for Perfectly Peter Productions, and those who come can expect to be highly entertained.