The Cripple of Inishmaan

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© Johan Persson

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Johan Persson

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Johan Persson

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Johan Persson

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Marc Brenner

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Marc Brenner

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Johan Persson

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Johan Persson

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Johan Persson

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

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© Johan Persson

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' at the Noel Coward theatre.

What is it with Daniel Radcliffe and livestock? The erstwhile Harry Potter made his stage debut as a horse-blinding teen in 2007’s ‘Equus’; now he’s back as a disabled lad who stares blankly at cattle in Michael Grandage’s revival of Martin ‘In Bruges’ McDonagh’s lovably astringent 1996 comedy.

Fanatical fans of the boy wizard may conceivably be disappointed – this is an ensemble piece, and though Radcliffe acquits himself solidly, he doesn’t dominate. Surrounded by a first rate, full throttle Irish cast, he’s a sweet, pale presence as Cripple Billy, the titular deformed lad living in a shithole island village in ‘30s Ireland.

Mercilessly patronised by even those that like him, he hates the miserable life mapped out for him – and is given an unlikely chance to escape it when a Hollywood film crew turns up at a neighbouring island.

With his laboured, painful movements, Radcliffe does a good, committed job with the physical stuff. His accent is okay, too – convincing if not full of conviction. But his sad, dignified performance conveys Billy’s outsiderdom well – like Harry Potter and Alan Strang in Equus, Billy is a little boy lost in an adult world.

A really fucking dreadful adult world: there’s not a person on Inishmaan who doesn’t say or think something appalling at some point or other, usually at the expense of poor Billy who, over the course of the play, finds himself robbed, beaten up, romantically rejected and worse.

But McDonagh – with his mastery of caustic dialogue – has drawn such weird, funny characters, inhabited with such verve by Grandage’s cast that this black comedy comes across as strangely celebratory of rural misery. Sarah Greene is wonderful as potty-mouthed local beauty Helen, ferocious, vivacious and winning as a self-absorbed young woman who spends most of her time throwing eggs at people who’ve crossed her. In a strong ensemble, she’s matched by Pat Shortt, wonderful as the scruple-free village bore Johnnypateenmike.

Grandage directs it in his usual effortless fashion, binding the action with a sort of smooth, dark whimsy that stops the humour becoming overegged. Christopher Oram’s rotating set gathers all the action into the centre of the stage, nicely fostering a sense of intimacy.

‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ isn’t quite McDonagh at his most jaw-droppingly brutal. But that is exactly why this loopy, unsentimental satire on romantic rural Ireland is such a smart choice for the West End – however you feel about its star, this is a top-notch comedy.

By Andrzej Lukowski

 

Average User Rating

3.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|9
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Tom Finch

The Cripple of Inishmaan himself is Billy Claven. An orphan who was taken in by his two adoptive aunts, he spends his days reading, reading some more and then more reading - with maybe a little bit of staring at cows in between. Starved for adventure and travel, he jumps at the chance to star in a film when town gossip Johnnypateenmike tells all of a Hollywood production company coming to film on Inishmoor. Laughed at by everyone, including his schoolgirl crush, Helen McCormick, can 'Cripple Billy' escape his title to be seen by all as just, Billy? The comedy duo of Billy's aunts was expertly played by Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna, who helped to set the stage and push the play on when energy was needed. Pat Shortt lovingly played Johnnypateenmike, proving that not all gossip is inherently bad and was embroiled in excellent sparring matches with his 90 year old alcoholic mother (June Watson). Daniel Radcliffe surely knows that you're only as good as your last play, and here he delivers once more, showing he is maturing into a fine actor. Opposite Radcliffe though are the ones to keep and eye on. Clare McMahon and Conor MacNeill excel at sister and brother, her, a foul-mouthed dominating sibling and him, a sweet and docile underdog. Much more of a comedy than a glum look at 1930s Ireland, the play sometimes played a little close to the line in terms of stereotypes. The script, while word-heavy, was engaging and well paced. The 3 part revolving set kept scenes smooth and created a believable backdrop. Cripple Billy might be able to escape his title but can the others escape their self-fulfilling destinies?

Mary

i thought that all of the actors worked very hard to put on such a great performance. the play itself was very good, not just depending on daniel radcliffe to attract most of their audience. I enjoyed the humor that was put into the play as well.

Bee

An amusing play, excellent and convincing performances from the cast, with an unexpected emotional heart. Really pleased to see such strong female roles. Stage set was perfectly designed, the atmosphere rural Ireland, you felt the space and the wildness and remoteness of where the play is set. I do wonder how many of the audience were aware of the social commentary of the play - so many clear cut Harry Potter fans just out to be entertained. Which they were, very well. I'd not give it 5* as that's reserved for plays that totally blow me away (Mother Courage at The National a few years ago, or Streetcar at The Donmar). WELL worth seeing though

Munoo

Brilliant screenplay, dark humour deliver well, each one of the performances were excellent with Daniel Radcliffe exceptional.

Alejandro

It was a good play overall, well performed but with a slightly boring script from my point of view. To be honest I wouldn't have gone without Daniel Radcliffe because I didn't get good reviews of the play from my peers. I appreciated the overall story once the play arrived at its end. Although I must admit that everything makes sense once it finishes, I also insist that, in my view, during its development the play turns somewhat dull, wasting the excellent work of the cast. I also liked the dark sense of humour, but I would suggest making the Irish accent a little smoother for the benefit of a very large international audience. Finally, I would like to praise the performance of Radcliffe and especially its initiative to take part in this play; I hope we can see him on stage more often.

Jenny Davison

Well - all I can say is that if this had been on TV I would have switched off after the first 10 minutes. A complete waste of both time and money. A cross of Father Ted and Mrs Browns Boys but even more tasteless and not at all funny - though I did almost laugh twice.

Mark

A pretty good play, well performed. Like most other attendees we would not have been there without Daniel Radcliffe, but we were treated to a well-written play with a top-notch cast. There were no weak links. I thought the humor was a little broad and sitcom-y at times (the eggs and the callback lines); but the way it tied together in the end justified the breakneck shifts in tone. A super dark comedy. I really admire Mr Radcliffe for taking on a tough, gritty and very dark play alongside a bunch of very strong actors.

m.howe

sorry,was I at the same play? to say I was disappointment would be an under statement... irish girls/young women,would,in the 30's never ever use the crude vulgar langague that fell so unconvicing from Helen's mouth,comments to do with the clergy would never be used in public,thats not to say those things mentioned never happened.at least we again,for an irish play had the usual drunk ,but at least,to ring a change it was an old woman..you know the story,drunken,stupid,uneducated ,good hearted irish..its all here folks. the silly set up of good guy.bad guy,turned into bad guy.good guy at the end was an insult to adult theatre goers. I was bored,dimayed, amshamed of been irish .comments for play..pat short was brilliant...end of..

Eve Marine Dauvergne

A stunning performance from a seriously talented and well orchestrated cast. All the actors are excellent and I would also like to give a very warm applause to the set designer. This is a disturbingly funny play that leaves you thinking long after the magnificent two hours and thirtyfive minutes are over. If you are in London this summer and you have to choose one play, this is a choice you won't regret ...