Skullduggery in the West


 by Rose Rushe


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Pat Ryan, a man from Caherconlish, returns as Garda Thomas Hanlon
Pat Ryan, a man from Caherconlish, returns as Garda Thomas Hanlon

IN Limerick a year ago almost to the date, such is audience demand countrywide for Martin McDonagh’s play ‘A Skull in Connemara’ that Galway’s Decadent Theatre Company is on the road again.

‘Skull’  is coming to University Concert Hall for two nights at the end of March, Friday 28 and Saturday 29, this window into the world of Mick Dowd (Garrett Keogh), a man who works digging graves for a week each Autumn.

Andrew Flynn, LSAD educated, is the company founder and director; the other local link is Pat Ryan from Caherconlish, in the role of Garda Thomas Hanlon. Hanlon is the original community garda on the beat, no fool, no saint and pivotal to the bloodcurdling but comic series of events flung up with disinterred bones.

“The whole play is about corruption,” Ryan tells Arts page cheerfully, “it’s about lies and half lies and innuendo.  Garda Hanlon should be on the side of truth and is not. He should personify what is truthful and what is justice in the play but he does not”.

A deliciously hokey plot is centred around his investigation into the death of the wife of Mick Dowd who was buried summarily after her death. Her  skull unearthed begs the question, was it bashed in by the errant driver (Dowd) or was that fated car crash an accident?

“McDonagh presents violence and the gore in the play and …it depends how it’s handled. Behaviour is beyond the pale and McDonagh has been compared to Quentin Tarentino for his style of writing and the action that he uses”.

Let none think that Martin McDonagh’s work is derivative in any way of another’s stock. Rather, Pat Ryan makes the point that this London born playwright spent his Summers back in Ireland’s West with grandparents, his ear tuned to how the Irish use the English language.

Referencing the rich script, Ryan claims that it is a devil to learn as  ”it is very close to how we speak.. Andrew directing is very specific about that as well as creating that world. He is attentive to all aspects of it.

“I love playing [Garda Hanlon], it’s a fantastic role and one that I got into through the language. It’s lovely and relaxed on stage, almost like playing music”.

The ingenious set that holds up to much physicality is by Owen MacCarthaigh. Garett Keogh, Maria McDermottroe and a driven Jarlath Tivnan share this ferocious stage for a production that merited several Irish Times Theatre nominations.

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