McDonagh’s The Lonesome West

Tonight at 8.00 pm sees the first play of the 2012 Lislea Drama Festival.  Kilrush of Wexford present this modern classic.

The Lonesome West features the constantly arguing brothers Coleman and Valene, whose father has just died in a shotgun ‘accident.’ Valene is only interested in his religious ornaments, and drinking poteen. Coleman is only interested in eating, and attends funerals to collect free sausage rolls. Valene goes out to help drag the body of Garda Thomas Hanlon (character in “A Skull in Connemara”) out of the lake with Father Welsh. Hanlon had just killed himself.

Coleman pretends to follow, delaying to tie his shoelace, despite the fact that he was wearing loafers. While alone in the house, he destroys all of Valene’s plastic figurines, by placing them in Valene’s new stove. Only Father Welsh, the alcoholic parish priest, attempts to fix their relationship, but his advice mostly goes unheard. It is revealed later in the play that Coleman had shot his father because he insulted his (Coleman’s) new haircut. Neither of the brothers show any grief or remorse at their father’s death.

The two brothers fight over everything and anything. Valene attacks Coleman over eating his crisps, and they fight over whose turn it is to read the magazine, and who left the top off Valene’s pen. Father Welsh, depressed because of the hatred between the brothers, and with a low self esteem, writes a letter begging the brothers to get along, saying that he will stake his soul on it. Father Welsh then goes on to drown himself in the lake. This act is significant, as there has already been a lengthy discussion about suicide in the play.

The characters believe that damnation follows suicide for the victims. When Coleman and Valene read his letter, they attempt to reconcile themselves, and a “confessions” scene ensues, in which the brothers take turns to admit the wrongs that they had secretly done to each other in the past, and to forgive each others “sins.” Coleman loses his temper when Valene admits to shoving a pencil down the throat of a girl that Coleman loved, causing her to then fall in love with the doctor that removed it.

Coleman proceeds to smash Valene’s precious religious figurines, and destroy his stove with multiple shot gun blasts. After Coleman calms down, Valene says “Try and top that one for yourself”. Coleman does, however, deliver an even more terrible confession. He reveals that he cut the ears of Valene’s dog two years previously, presenting the evidence of severed dog’s ears in a brown paper bag. With this, Valene flies into a rage, and a major fight scene ensues.

It becomes clear that the two brothers can never have a good relationship. They agree that fighting is actually good for them, and that Fr. Welsh’s soul will be fine.

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