The Lieutenant of Inishmore

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03/08/14

Hill Street Theatre, Edinburgh

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is one of Martin McDonagh’s finest plays – a surreal blend of violence, dark comedy and mayhem. As presented by In Your Face Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe (Hill Street Theatre) it’s a truly immersive experience.

Picture this. You and fourteen others are ushered into a small, claustrophobic room. You can’t help but notice that the walls, floor and ceiling are lined with bin bags. You are issued with a splatter-proof hooded cape and foot covering. You also can’t help but notice that less than a foot away, a half naked man is lying unconscious on a torture table. Then the eponymous anti-hero strides in and the torture session begins…

Of course, it would be easy to dismiss all this as a mere gimmick and at first, I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy the performance. But as the action unfurled, as the gore sprayed around the room, I realised that I was actually loving this production, more so perhaps than the expensive polished version I attended at the Curve Theatre some years ago. When you’re so embroiled in the action, when the characters are actually including you in it, the manic humour of the piece comes to the fore and you find yourself laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all. This production is what the Edinburgh Fringe is all about. With such small audience capacity, In Your Face must be running at a loss, but they’re doing it for the sheer, unadulterated joy of putting on a show.

Make no mistake, this is immersive theatre at its most literal. Forget about breaking the fourth wall. Here, it doesn’t exist and at the play’s conclusion, there’s no time for applause, because the cast are helping you out of your gore-splattered covers and asking you what you thought of the show. What did I think? Phenomenal. For its sheer brass neck brilliance, this gets a full 5 stars.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

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