A Skull In Connemara

Adelaide Repertory Theatre. The Arts Theatre. 25 Apr 2012

Martin McDonagh is a hugely successful English playwright of Irish parents - his father is from, guess where, Connemara on the northwest coast of Ireland.  A Skull in Connemara is part of a trilogy of offbeat stories involving the feckless gormless rubes he likes us to imagine actually live there.  God help them if they are really as rustic as portrayed.  McDonagh’s plays earned four Tony nominations for best play between 1998 and 2006.  Always a Tony bridesmaid but never a bride, there is still time left – he is only 42 years old.

Director Kerrin White writes in the notes that A Skull in Connemara is a fast paced black comedy, but that’s not what I saw on stage.  McDonagh likes to bury the diamonds of conversation in tonnages of gangue to give us the flavour of the place, so it’s important to wade briskly through the blather.  The characters for sure are entertaining and played with lightness and ease by the cast of four.  Peter Davies’s Mick Dowd is charged with digging up old graves and unceremoniously disposing of the remains.  Mark Drury plays his younger accomplice, Mairtin, with whining and whingeing in an uneasy relationship.  They have some heated exchanges of menace and malice.  Jude Brennan is great as the poteen-slurping neighbour and Steve Parker is excellent as the local cop.   

Unfortunately the whole was not greater than the sum of the parts, and the sought-after black comedy often just seemed odd or cruel.  The skull-malleting scene was far too drawn out and deadened the pace.  Peter Davies and Mark Drury might as well have been speaking Irish Gaelic most of the time; they were often difficult to understand.  In contrast, Jude Brennan and Steve Parker were clear as an Irish spring.

The production was a bit like poor Mairtin at the end of the show – bloodied but neither alive nor dead.

David Grybowski

When: 19 to 28 Apr
Where: The Arts Theatre, 53 Angas St, Adelaide
Bookings: 8212 5777 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.