Tag Archives: Michael Grandage

The Lieutenant of Inishmore – 4 Stars


The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Noël Coward Theatre

Reviewed – 5th July 2018


“… many hilarious scenes, played out with brittle but unbreakable comic timing by Aidan Turner”


When “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” premiered in 2001 it was considered quite dangerously close to the bone. The peace agreement was only three years old and Martin McDonagh’s dark play struck a chord. Michael Grandage’s revival, at a time when the Troubles seem assigned to history, has lost none of the urgency. If anything, its resonance is more acute than ever in today’s climate.

At its centre, after one has waded through the blood and gore, is the story of Mad Padraic, a terrorist so brutal he’s been thrown out of the IRA. He’s certainly done the rounds – tortured drug dealers, bombed chip shops and drawn up his own list of ‘valid targets’ (a phrase often used by the IRA to justify its murders). Yet, he has a soft spot for his cat, ‘Wee Thomas’. The first time we meet Padraic he is pulling off the toenails of small time crook James (Brian Martin) whose crime is selling marijuana to schoolkids. Interrupted by a phone call from his dad to tell him his beloved cat is sick, he races home to Inishmore to comfort the creature. This is one of many hilarious scenes, played out with brittle but unbreakable comic timing by Aidan Turner. Wearing a blood spattered white vest throughout, his appetite for firing bullets matches the quick-fire delivery of McDonagh’s dialogue.

At times verging on farce, the play is an obvious satirical attack on Irish terrorism that still has bite twenty years after the Good Friday agreement. McDonagh gets to the heart of the issue while being careful to criticise both sides: many of the jokes, at the expense of the IRA, refer to actual atrocities, yet he also refers to Bloody Sunday in which the British Army opened fire on a Civil Rights march, killing over a dozen unarmed civilians. But far from belittling historical fact, turning it into comedy is a far more effective way of urging an audience to question the issues raised.

The comic and the horrific are perfectly balanced in Grandage’s production. It is Pythonesque to the extreme as the laughs pile up thicker than the blood and guts on stage. The blood is thicker than the plot, though. However, there is a comforting predictability to events which lets the audience relax and enjoy the performances. It is no spoiler to reveal that Padraic’s cat is not just sick, but stone-cold dead. Fearful of the reaction this would spark, the comic duo of Donny and Davey (Denis Conway and Chris Walley) try to replace it with another cat, smearing it with boot polish to disguise it as the real thing. This, more than any political ideal, is what precipitates the chaos and Padraic’s trigger-happy finger.

Far from being a vehicle for Turner, this is an ensemble piece with equally strong performances from the supporting cast (not quite upstaged by the dead cats), especially Charlie Murphy as the love interest who lends a spirited, gamine lunacy to her character. Will Irvine, Julian Moore-Cook and Daryl McCormack, as the homicidal gunmen intent on annihilating Padraic, are wonderfully absurd, recalling the Marx Brothers trio while arguing over the accuracy of Karl Marx quotes.

It is a violent play, but one that is clearly anti-violence. It definitely has a screw loose, but it is as tight as a hard-rock rhythm section; the banter ricocheting off the walls with the precision of a trained sniper. This is a high-spirited production which, taken in the spirit intended, is a sheer delight. Black comedy has never been so bright.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson


The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Noël Coward Theatre until 8th September


Previously reviewed at this venue
Quiz | ★★★★ | April 2018


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Red – 5 Stars



Wyndham’s Theatre

Reviewed – 16th May 2018


“For ninety non-stop minutes the audience is taken through a whirlwind of Rothko’s intensity, an emotional roller-coaster”


Almost a decade after its first production at the Donmar Warehouse, Michael Grandage’s production of Red returns to the London stage, this time in the heart of the West End at the Wyndman’s Theatre. The play follows a fictional account of artist Mark Rothko and his newly appointed assistant Ken, between the years 1958 – 59 during the time of a cultural shift within the arts, as the emergence of Pop Art began to slowly push remnants of Expressionism away. One might think that such a story would best suit an audience with a solid foundation of knowledge on 20th century artists, however, the universal themes and overall plot of the play will resonate with anyone with even the remotest interest in the arts.

For ninety non-stop minutes the audience is taken through a whirlwind of Rothko’s intensity, an emotional roller-coaster. The set remains the same throughout, and is accurately based on Rothko’s original studio in New York’s Bowery. Around the studio are various interpretations of Rothko’s paintings, which are moved around by both actors during each transition and placed on the central canvas holder. Each transition, though not always clear, offers a moment for the audience to reflect on the painting in question, almost as if given a quiet moment in a gallery to take in the picture fully.

It is quite remarkable, and a testament to both the actors, Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch, and director Michael Grandage, that there is never a dull moment in the play despite the fact that most of the action could be seen by some as rather mundane. There is incredible attention to detail with the set, with each part of it serving a purpose throughout the play. In every scene we see the actors using the space as artists would; setting up and priming canvases, mixing paint to name a few. The only one thing the audience never sees either Ken or Rothko do, is actually paint. This immense focus on naturalism, as well as the genius of John Logan’s writing, makes Red an incredibly compelling piece of theatre to watch.

From those who frequent the Tate Modern, to those that have never stepped foot in a gallery before, Red highlights the arguments for the importance of the arts in society today. It may even inspire one to revisit forms of art which one may have before deemed as inaccessible.


Reviewed by Claire Minnitt

Photography by Johan Persson



Wyndham’s Theatre until 28th July


Red Revival at Wyndham’s


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