The Lonesome West has been revived for Liverpool’s Royal Court, in a slight segue from their status quo. Valeen and Coleman are the least emotionally mature, most selfish and genuinely deviant pair of feckers I’ve ever seen played upon the stage. They’re alcoholic, racist, sexist, homophobic (in spite of likely being gay themselves), stingy and violent. They are the brattish children grown and left to stew in each other’s company. I hated them, and I loved that I hated them.
Part of McDonagh’s Connemara trilogy, it certainly doesn’t do any favours for the west of Ireland which is portrayed as murderous, depressing and nasty place to live. The play has wafts of the Irish gothic, not just for its authentically lilting dialogue, but in its inability to look at the elephant in the room. The brothers near kill each other in trying to avoid having an actual conversation. This at times can be one of the main belly-ticklers as it’s typical to the Irish, and McDonagh (knowing thing) stretches the limits of how far someone will go to avoid having an honest conversation to the extreme.
The opening few scenes were snappily paced and filled with humour, and it relies on the knee-jerk giggle of a few ‘fecks’ only a few times. Thankfully this cheap trick fades into the background as the comedy and dialogue becomes much about serving genuine humour rather than slapstick Irish laughs in the forms of swearing and swinging drunken punches.
Relief (and some form of social interaction) comes in the form of Father Welsh and the sparky, self-aware Girleen. It is in these scenes where the comedy gets darkest. Having a crisis of faith, Father Welsh seeks solace in the brothers, only to be reassured that he’s a fine priest simply because he doesn’t “fiddle with five year olds”. The seats at Royal Court cringed, giggled and tee-hee’s through gritted teeth. Thankfully Father Welsh becomes his own person throughout, rather than just being the scapegoat for a few religious jokes.
The second half of The Lonesome West exhales and settles into itself, becoming more contemplative, philosophical and honest. This was a sincere pay-off having sat white-knuckled at how irritating and bloody stupid the brothers are.
All told, a fine performance that I felt secreted away more grand statements than perhaps it wanted to behind the comedy.
The Lonesome West runs until May 20th. Tickets and info here.