A Catalan stage version of Martin McDonagh’s black comedy The Lonesome West (1997) was a valiant stab at the British-Irish playwright’s vicious satire of Irish, and modern, life. The final part of a trilogy set in Leenane, a fictional town in rural Ireland, The Lonesome West expands on themes introduced in McDonagh’s most famous play The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996), which hacked at the façade of family and moral values associated with the ridiculous, if persistent, stereotype of Ireland.
Staged at Versus Teatre, the production meticulously recreates the grotty family residence in McDonagh’s imagined Ireland, where smutty posters and figuerines of the Virgin Mary, packets of crisps and a crucifix, are equally revered. There, nasty brothers Coleman (Eduard Buch) and Valene (Isidre Montserrat) spar relentlessly like kids in a playpen, while the audience look down on them from two sides. They are fuelled by booze provided by tough kid Girleen (Aida Oset) and watched by an increasingly distressed Father Welsh (Sergio Alfonso), a priest with a guilt complex.
Directed by Pepa Fluvià, this youthful, highly-charged production places physical, and audible, emphasis on the brutality of McDonagh’s play, yet perhaps it does so at the expense of the more subtle, savage coldness of the text. This highlights the great challenge of this difficult play: to find a point of empathy between the audience and the thoroughly loathsome characters it portrays. It lies, I think, in McDonagh’s icy humour, delivered through explicit, yet necessarily deadpan dialogue. Perhaps, allowing the audience some breathing space would have increased the emotional impact of this restless and intense production. Yet, having said that, the choice of play was a fantastic one. An indictment of hypocrisy with universal relevance, McDonagh’s self-consciously misogynist text was a particularly interesting choice for a female director.
Experience The Lonesome West at Versus Teatre by troupe Ras Teatre until July 1st.
The play is in high-powered Catalan.