The Lonesome West - Ian Spiby

Ian Spiby

In March 2020, White Cobra’s production of Martin McDonagh’s play The Lonesome West, had reached Dress Rehearsal stage when the government announced “lockdown”, all theatres closed and our play was cancelled. Since then, McDonagh, already famous for his film In Bruges has shot to even starrier heights with his recent film The Banshees of Inisherin.  When I last heard, it has been nominated for nine Oscars

The Lonesome West is set in a similar Irish community to the fictional island of Inisherin where for trivial reasons, people give vent to the impulses which most of us manage to control. We might want to murder our relatives but rarely do we actually do so. But in The Lonesome West, they do – and where through fighting and squabbling, they live essentially unhappy and miserable lives, the pain of it dulled by the illegally-distilled spirit, poteen. The petty vices of humanity – jealousy, spite, meanness, point-scoring, grudge-bearing, back-biting – are all laid out for us to see. Nothing is sacred. The Church and its teachings are held up to ridicule. The schoolgirl football team are vicious hooligans. We are shown a world where chaotic comedy and violence exist side by side, where as we laugh at the antics of the characters, we’re thinking to ourselves, ”I shouldn’t be laughing at this”. 

And in the middle of all this mayhem is the young priest, Father Welsh who despairs of finding any true goodness in the people of his parish and who blames himself for their failings. Driven to drink by their fecklessness, but following the example of Jesus in the Bible, he puts his own soul on the line in order to try to save them. And McDonagh, avoiding a trite ending, leaves us wondering whether he has been successful.

So The Lonesome West is not just a madcap mixture of comedy and violence, it is also an incisive observation of us as human beings and has some profound comments on the nature of humanity.

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