History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Early English 21st

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Martin McDonagh[edit]

Martin McDonagh continued satiric work from the previous decade in another black comedy, "The lieutenant of Ishimore" (2001).

“In McDonagh’s repertoire, The Lieutenant of Inishmore stands as the most unrelentingly violent and the most unrelentingly comic play, a piece that in fact turns the violence into play“ (Doyle, 2007 p 92). “The logical disconnect between the violence and the absurd sentimentality over a cat is meant on the surface to evoke humor...but more significantly to satirize the Irish tradition of the lonesome, winsome, and heroic IRA combatant as it simultaneously satirizes the edifice of the Irish dramatic tradition…While Padraic is torturing James...Padraic discovers that his cat...'is poorly'; he plunges into despair, James tries to console him- the juxtaposition of the tortured consoling the torturer illustrates the nihilistic incongruity. McDonaugh is masterful in aligning a magnitude of violence simultaneously with profound triviality” (Krasner, 2016 pp 488-489).

"The lieutenant of Ishimore"[edit]

Padraic is a terrorist and torturer but at least he loves cats, even keen on killing people who harm his

Time: 1993. Place: Ishimore, Ireland.

Text at ?

Davey brings over to Donny a dead black cat found in the street, but the latter believes this to be a lie, Davey having squashed the cat, named Wee Thomas, belonging to Donny's son, Padraic, a self-appointed lieutenant of a splinter group from the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), a Catholic terrorist group situated in Northern Ireland. Donny promises to keep the truth secret to his dangerous son provided that Davey admits his deed. Knowing that it is untrue but fearful of Padraic, Davey accepts. In disgust over the activities of James, a drug pusher among schoolchildren, Padraic has captured him, turned him upside-down, and cut off two of his toenails. He prepares to cut off a nipple from his breast, but instead releases him after receiving a call from his father that Wee Thomas is sick, a lie meant to mitigate the bad news of the cat's demise into small successive stages. In fear of Padraic's rage, Davey scours the town for a black cat to replace Wee Thomas, but is unable to find one. Instead, he brings back a ginger cat and, with Donny's help, paints it black with shoe polish. Padraic discovers the two cronies in a drunken sleep and is not fooled by the substitution. He shoots the cat dead. Pointing towards Davey, a frightened Donny turns against his helpmate. "This fella clobbered him with his bike and then pegged stones at him," Donny declares. Padraic angrily ties up both men and hacks off Davey's fancy hairdo with a knife in preparation of killing them, but is interrupted by the arrival of three of his old colleagues armed with guns who have come over to kill him for leaving the INLA. Having killed his cat to set up this trap for him, they tie Padraic's hands and lead him out for execution, but he is saved by his girlfriend and Davey's sister, Mairead, who blinds all three INLA members with shots from an air rifle. The three blind men re-enter the house in despair and then shoot out through the windows in the hope of striking their assailants by chance, but Padraic easily succeeds in killing them. Padraic and Mairead force Donny and Davey to chop up the victims' body parts before their removal elsewhere and to clean up the place. They also decide to stick together as "Wee Thomas' army". But when Mairead discovers that the dead ginger cat, Sir Roger, is hers, in anger at Padraic's thoughtless deed, she shoots him dead and orders the other two to chop him up with the rest. "And it's an investigation tomorrow I'll be launching, when I've had the chance to think, about how Sir Roger came to end up in this house in the first place, and half black with it," she announces to the anxious pair.