Absurdity, savagery combine

Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, is a real place, but playwright Martin McDonagh's Inishmore, while it has one foot in reality, has its other foot somewhere else.

Several of the play's characters are members of the brutal (and real) Irish National Liberation Army. Their fanaticism is untinged by idealism or even practicality - nothing these people do has the remotest chance of advancing the project of a free and united Ireland - but provides cover for pointless thuggery.

They think nothing of butchering their neighbours on a whim, or blowing up a chip shop just because it is an easy target.

Yet everyone, without exception, soppily and ludicrously idolises their cat.

By showing us in grisly detail what savagery looks like, undercutting it with humour and adding a level of surrealism, McDonagh uses the play as a polemic against the use of violence as a means to political ends.

Arcade Theatre's production, directed by Orion Carey-Clark, emphasises both the play's brutality and its unremitting humour: not for the squeamish, it is as extreme a blend of nastiness and absurdity as you are ever likely to see.

The location, an unheated George St loft, provides a suitably gritty atmosphere, and the cold intensifies the experience.

Laith Bayan, Alex Martyn, Isaac Martyn, Zac Nicholls, Bene Stewart and Shaun Swain provide excellent support for strong performances by Mac Veitch as Padraic, the self-appointed lieutenant, and Josephine Devereux as Mairead, his incipient girlfriend and successor - both in love with the rhetoric and action of Irish heroism but, in the 1990s, out of their time and out of their depth.

Accents are recognisably Irish and add authenticity to the exaggeratedly Irish dialogue.

Last night's audience was highly appreciative and the 35-odd seats in this inventively used performance space sold out.

The play runs until Saturday.

-By Barbara Frame

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