Isabelle Culkin talks to the director and cast of Bailey Theatre Company’s upcoming production of ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’.
“Padraic, a psychopathic Irish terrorist deemed too mad to be in the IRA, has just received some bad news – his beloved pet cat has been mysteriously and brutally killed. As Padraic’s family and friends try to prepare for his return, they soon realise that no one is safe from the storm of his vengeance. Described as ‘Tarantino for the stage’, The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a pitch black comedy that satirises the futility of nationalism, the myth of redemptive violence and the benefits of using Frosties as pet food.”
Having written ‘Killing Time’ for Durham Drama Festival 2015, I’m sensing a running trend here; what is it about black comedy and blood that really appeals to you?
Nikhil Vyas (Director): I think there’s something about violence on stage which is a bit more exciting than on film, because there’s no barrier between the audience and what’s happening, so it just feels so much rawer and in your face. The audience knows obviously that it’s not real, but it just really draws you in.
Why ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ specifically?
NV: I’d seen Martin McDonagh’s film In Bruges, and I thought it was absolutely incredible. Then I did a bit of digging into his work, and found he had written plays as well. I started reading Inishmore and it was one of those plays where as soon as I had read it, I just knew I had to do it. It hooked me from page one, with the characters and the ridiculous violence. It just ticked off every box for me, and I knew I really wanted to bring this to Durham.
What makes Martin McDonagh’s writing so funny?
NV: Part of it just seems absurd, because some of them spend so much time arguing about pointless things, but there is also a sort of depth to the humour. It’s like he’s satirising the way that we consume violence in modern culture and how integral violence is to what we find entertaining. There’s just an edge to his plays where he’s holding a mirror up to the audience, and saying ‘look at you all laughing at all this sick stuff’.
What made you audition for ‘Inishmore’?
Tyler Rainford (Padraic): Because I have no regard for my degree.
Eliza Cummings-Cove (Joey): It’s quite different to anything I’ve done, I haven’t done a black comedy before. Having seen what McDonagh’s done before, you just know it’s going to be hilarious and ridiculous at the same time.
Corinna Harrison (Christy): It takes a normal play and then it just pushes it and pushes it, and then you’ve got blood and cats and everything flying everywhere by the end of the play, and it’s just quite fun to be involved in.
Izzie Price (Mairead): It is fun. There’s a lot of 1920s naturalistic stuff going on in Durham, which I’m definitely not saying I don’t like, but it’s different.
Kaelan Bhate (James/Brendan): It’s quite short and sweet, it’s very concise. There’s nothing particularly intricate or clever. You can sit there and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to understand it.
NV: I agree, what I really admire about the script is how efficiently it’s done. He sets up the characters with very minimal effort and sustains the action, and I think the way he does that is just a mark of genius, and I really admire it.
Have the accents proven tricky?
Unanimous ‘yes’ amongst the cast.
How are you all coping with managing to ‘degree’ and also rehearse?
NV: I think we’ve all just given up on our degrees. I was actually so grateful to these guys for taking part. When we got that slot, I didn’t know who would audition, it’s lovely to have this range in the cast.
What have you found most challenging?
NV: From a production point of view, definitely sourcing all the limbs and cats and stuff.
How have you dealt with producing this bloodbath?
NV: Pretty well actually. We’ve got the good people of Cooper Studios helping us with the exploding cat. It’s weird because there are different types of blood which are needed, it’s not like there’s a ‘one size fits all’ kind of blood. We need blood to cover the stage with, blood to cover the actors in, blood dripping from the eyes, so it will be interesting.
Is this not for the fainthearted?
NV: Very much not, but I think students do love black comedy, because deep down everyone loves stuff like Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs, where there’s that juxtaposition between the horrific violence and the almost surreal comedy which comes with it. I think it’s something which is very different to what’s been done in Durham this year.
NV: “I thought shooting fellas would be fun, but it’s not. It’s dull.”
TR: “…not only to cut the nose off him, all well and good, a bit of micro-surgery may do the trick later, but to then feed it to his cocker spaniel, a dog never did no one harm.”
‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ will be performed at The Assembly Rooms, Thu 7 May – Sat 9 May, 7:30pm.
Tickets: £5 DST, £6 Student, £7 Standard.
Photography: Isabelle Culkin