Thursday, 11 February 2010
I remember about eight years ago seeing a Martin McDonagh play – ‘The Beauty Queen of Lenane’ - in London and thinking at the time how energetic and amusing his use of language was but how old-fashioned and caricature-ish his presentation of life in the west of Ireland was. A good laugh if you secretly loathed the west of Ireland and its people, a bit of a pain if you didn’t. I remembered ‘The Beauty Queen of Lenane’ when I read a review of another play of his ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ in today’s Guardian. This one is about Mad Padraic, an INLA man who is torturing a drug pusher and gets enraged when his (Mad Paidraic’s) pet cat is killed. Balancing Mad Paidraic is Mairead, a ‘gun-toting teenager so seduced by the erotic pull of violence that she wants to form a terrorist splinter group, Wee Thomas’s Army, to fight for an Ireland fit for moggies’.
It’s probably not a good idea to criticize a play you haven’t seen but what the hell – the tone and content seem reasonably clear from this review. Paramilitaries are a psychotic bunch, they get drawn into violence because it gives them a sexual charge, their violence is coupled with a maudlin sentimentality, and they live in a mad, mad, mad, mad world different from the rest of us. It’s a neat way of responding to violent Irish nationalism, and one embraced with enthusiasm by a lot of ‘educated’ Irish as well as English people. McDonagh is half Irish, half English; since he’s employed the English side of himself to present this picture of crazed Irish terrorists, perhaps he’ll balance it with a thespian picture of blood-crazed British troops – say, the Parachute regiment – going on a shooting spree or torturing unfortunate natives unlucky enough to fall into their hands. Too far-fetched? Or maybe McDonagh believes it’s just violent Irishmen should be labeled ‘psychotic’ when they use physical force to achieve political ends? Whatever the reason, I’m tempted to think that McDonagh’s skill with language doesn’t really compensate for the moral laziness of his vision of Irish people.