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Review - The Lonesome West: laughter in the darkness

Right: Christopher Story and Cameron Hurry

The Lonesome West

By Martin McDonagh

Directed by Kieran Brice

Troop Productions

Performance Space

Judith Wright Centre

Brunswick Street

Fortitude Valley


Season has ended

The Lonesome West is the final leg of the Leenane trilogy. I saw the first - The Beauty Queen of Leenane - a few years ago and enjoyed it so much that I grabbed the chance to see Troop Productions version of The Lonesome West, even if it was the final night. I have yet to see the middle play, A Skull in Connemara.

Martin McDonagh has a clever knack of bringing laughter into the darkest and bleakest of situations and the dark humour brought waves of laughter from the audience.

This was the first time I had seen something from Troop Production and it was a creditable show, with near perfect Irish accents that were still understandable. It was a credit to Brisbane’s top dialect coach Melissa Agnew. The actors too, understood their characters and presented them well in Georgina Greenhill’s detailed and atmospheric set enhanced by great lighting and sound.

The play is set in Leenane, a dreary town in the west of Ireland. As it opens the Connor brothers, Coleman and Valene have just returned from their father’s funeral, with the parish priest. Dad, so it was said died from an accidental gunshot wound to the head.

Was this true or was there something else as is often hinted at. Even then they bicker spitefully and soon it is evident that fighting is a way of life for these distinctly different brothers.

Various items in the room have a large “V” emblazoned on the surface, which signified the property of Valene, who is miserly selfish man intent on letting his brother know who the rich man in the family is. He is nicely played by Cameron Hurry with a mix of meanness and anger. He collects figurines of Jesus, Mary and the saints, and inexplicably owns their late father’s whole estate.

He is so mean he refuses to share his little bottle of poteen, an illicit spirit brew, with anybody, not even the overwrought priest.

Christopher Story’s Coleman is the opposite; he is a smiling assassin as he cheerfully goads his brother into fury and often into a fist fight. But behind the mask is a person of anger and danger.

A spate of recent murders and suicides in the parish has driven the priest, Father Welsh to yet another crisis of faith and witnessing another chapter of their endless feud is close to too much for him, the failure as he sees himself.

Derek Draper portrays a very Irish Catholic priest, riddled with guilt and fear of failure.

Thrown into the mix is schoolgirl Girleen, who is played with a nice mix of innocence and guile by Eva McGillivray. She is the girl who supplies the poteen and is also distantly in love with Father Welsh.

As the play processes the fights are more bitter and fiercer and in what is meant to be a healing session with confession and forgiveness, the feuding becomes more spiteful and vicious. Someone, you feel, is going to get shot.

Between them the four actors told the story well and the large audience was entertained thoroughly as I was.

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