book (play script) review: The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh


Bloomsbury, 2001
Review on Goodreads

This is probably McDonagh’s most absurd work, which is saying something. The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a farcical look at Irish terrorist organizations, set on the island of Inishmore in the Aran Islands in the early 1990s. The play focuses on a cycle of small-town bloody revenge set into motion by the death of an INLA man’s beloved cat.

As usual, much of McDonagh’s humor relies on the irony behind corrupt morality – in this case, we meet Padraic, who’s literally in the middle of torturing a man when he gets a call that his cat Wee Thomas is poorly. (It’s reminiscent of Woody Harrelson’s character in Seven Psychopaths, a violent gangster who’s unnaturally attached to his shih tzu Bonny, or Ralph Fiennes’ character in In Bruges, a hitman with a selectively rigid moral code.) But even though McDonagh likes to revisit similar themes time and again, it never gets old for me. He fuses comedy and tragedy/morality and violence in such a uniquely striking way, each of his plays approaching the theme from a distinct angle. And while most of his plays are rather silly on the surface, there’s something so much darker lying beneath, and that’s what he really excels at with Inishmore.

Better than The Cripple of Inishmaan; not as good as The Pillowman. Major trigger warning for animal death (which for some reason doesn’t bother me so much in this particular brand of absurdist comedy).

3 thoughts on “book (play script) review: The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh

    • If you haven’t watched In Bruges (which McDonagh wrote and directed) you really should! It’s my absolute favorite dark comedy. But his plays are fantastic too. The Pillowman is also a good place to start with him. It’s very very dark and disturbing but also wickedly funny.

      Liked by 1 person

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