Theatre reviews: The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Fun Home and more…


Johan Persson

Aidan Turner shines in The Lieutenant Of Inishmore

As Mad Padraic, an Irish INLA “freedom fighter” considered too unstable even for the IRA, Turner is wild, unpredictable and dangerous.

He is also pathetic and absurd, interrupting his torture of a Belfast drug dealer to weep over the news his beloved cat Wee Thomas is “poorly”.

I will spare you the details of the victim’s mutilations but this is just the beginning of a play that ends up with dismembered human corpses all over the stage. Did I mention it was a comedy?

Returning to his father’s farmhouse in Inishmore, Padraic finds his cat is no more, having had most of its brains knocked out in an apparent road accident and that his 15-year-old neighbour Mairead (Charlie Murphy) has been practising her own sniper skills by shooting the eyes out of cows because, she reasons, “Nobody is going to buy a blind cow”.

He is extravagantly and flamboyantly funny but never at the expense of his lethal lunacy.

Neil Norman

The situation becomes even more volatile with the arrival of a trio of INLA hoods who want Padraic dead due to his insistence on creating a splinter group.

Turner spends the entire play in a bloodstained vest with twin shoulder holsters like the wild Irish cousin of Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers.

He is extravagantly and flamboyantly funny but never at the expense of his lethal lunacy.

A strong supporting cast respond to Michael Grandage’s con brio direction which dispenses with any residual subtlety to sustain an unrelenting atmosphere of violent farce.

Johan PerssonByline: Johan Persson Credit:

The Lieutenant Of Inishmore may be 20 years old but its cocktail of humour and horror

Unfortunately McDonagh’s brilliance in satirising the romantic, self-mythologising nature of murderous Irish patriots is lost among the gore splatter and Father Ted caricatures.

McDonagh has come a long way and this looks like a fairly crude blueprint for later, far more sophisticated work such as Hangmen and the Oscar-winning movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

But it is still enjoyable and funny – if you have a strong stomach.

Johan Persson

Black humour does not get more black or bloody than Martin McDonagh’s early plays

Fun home **** Young Vic, until September 1. Tickets: 020 7922 2922

The memoir of a lesbian cartoonist who grows up with a secretly gay father in a bohemian Pennsylvania household may not sound the most promising material for a musical. Yet here it is, trailing plaudits and accolades from America, including five Tony awards.

Three actresses play illustrator Alison Bechdel (Kaisa Hammarlund) as she looks back at her childhood and teenage years (Eleanor Kane) from the vantage point of the present.

It is a neat device and allows for rapid changes of mood and atmosphere, lubricated by a succession of great songs by composer Jeanine Tesori and lyricist/scriptwriter Lisa Kron.

The title is ironic as their house is a huge old museum of a place that also acts as the local funeral home.

Marc Brenner

Three actresses play illustrator Alison Bechdel (Kaisa Hammarlund)

The children play in coffins and caskets in the same way as normal kids play in cardboard boxes.

Bruce (Zubin Varla) is a demanding father – loving and tyrannical, capricious, mercurial and selfish. Helen (Jenna Russell) is a quietly stoic mother, a classical pianist with a heart hammered by her misaligned marriage.

The performances are strong and intelligent throughout with Small Alison (Brooke Haynes on opening night) killing the crowd with a song about the first stirrings of her sexuality.

Threaded with melancholy and regret it is also very funny in parts and exudes a warmth and complexity of character that is rare in musicals.

No cheap sentimentality but take tissues anyway.

The Jungle **** Playhouse Theatre, until November 3. Tickets: 0844 871 7631

The Jungle in Calais was a hastily erected assembly point for refugees from various war zones including Syria and Libya.

Eight thousand dispossessed people came to call it home as they tried to smuggle themselves on to trucks, trains and cars to cross the Channel to the UK.

Although it housed different people from often conflicting backgrounds it became a symbol of racial collusion if not actual harmony.

Among the temporary cafés, restaurants, churches, mosques and medical centres that sprang up before it was bulldozed by the French authorities in October 2016 was a theatre created by two Brits, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson.


The auditorium is converted into a replica of an Afghan restaurant

Their experiences and stories are combined in this enormously affecting piece of immersive theatre whose anger, energy and joy recall the heady days of agitprop theatre of the 1970s.

The auditorium is converted into a replica of an Afghan restaurant with spectators sitting at long tables or around the fringes of the central acting area. People run and shout through the audience as British volunteer aid workers attempt to keep order and liaise with the intractable French delegates.

Directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, the play verges on chaos yet proves elastic enough to maintain a forward momentum and is superbly played by all – some of whom are former inhabitants of the Jungle itself. A salutary, exciting, humbling experience.

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