The sign posted right before the entrance of the Segal Theatre reads “WARNING: Live gunshots will be used. No animals were harmed during this production.” The Lieutenant of Inishmore, written by Martin McDonagh and directed by Kate Bligh, sends the audience on a gruesome yet hilarious journey. The plays starts off with the discovery of Wee Thomas’ half-decapitated body. Wee Thomas is a black cat, but most importantly, he was Padraic’s only friend for 15 years. Padraic is a brutal member of the Irish National Liberation Army, a terrorist splinter group from the Irish Republican Army. Throughout the play, he seeks revenge for the death of his beloved cat.
“In most plays somebody dies or suffers a horrible end,” said Bligh. “This play is very honest about the fact that this is one of the things that happens in theatre.”
Gunshots, blood, dismembered human bodies, blown up-cats and irrational love are all part of McDonagh’s gory Lieutenant. “I kind of appreciate the honesty and the “in your faceness’ of the play,” said Bligh. She saw the play for the first time five years ago in New York and instantly knew she wanted to direct it. “It just jumped out at me as a very exciting piece of theatre,” she said.
“[McDonagh] is a very intelligent playwright who has a pretty cynical and yet insightful view of human behavior,” Bligh said. Lieutenant is a satire of Irish extremist nationalism, as Padraic is part of the INLA.
According to Jon Verrall, who plays a drug dealer tortured by Padraic, “the play is there to let the audience reflect on politics as opposed to cramming something down their throats.” He said they “just want to show the really dark comedic aspect of how stupid terrorism can be.” The technical side of Lieutenant was the biggest challenge Bligh encountered. “It get surprisingly technical very quickly,” she said. Almost every character in the play carries a gun. Last spring, with that in mind, the entire cast drove down to Vermont and spent the day in a gun club. “Even though we’re all dealing with a play which is anti-violence and treats of how awful guns can be, it was very interesting to know how seductive the power that those kinds of weapons carry with them can be,” noted Bligh. Verrall enjoyed the experience, but “as fun as it was to shoot at a target, I would never ever want to carry one in real life, never,” he said.
Every gunshot makes you jump off your seat and every line that follows makes you burst out laughing at the irony of the play. “It’s an emotional roller coaster for the actors as well as the audience,” said Verrall.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore runs until Jan. 23 at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, 5170 CÃ´te-Ste-Catherine.