Daniel Radcliffe may be the bait to entice audiences to buy tickets to the Michael Grandage Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s quirky yet moving play THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMANN that has been brought over from London lock, stock and barrel of peas and baskets of eggs intact at the Cort Theatre but there are many other wonderful assets to enjoy in this incredibly well acted and directed production by Michael Grandage.
First and foremost the gracious and talented Mr. Radcliffe is not the star of the production, per se. He is part of an ensemble of fine-tuned actors portraying the various eccentric characters that inhabit the bleak Island of Inishmaan where gossip reigns supreme. There isn’t much else to do. But like all gossip one never knows what is true and what isn’t.
Mr. Radcliffe, as Cripple Billy has decided to forsake his comfort zone in what appears to be a most uncomfortable position as he hobbles across the stage – almost hopping – as he becomes the twisted albeit adorable Billy – a sickly orphan who has been brought up by his two spinster aunts after both his parents died in a boating accident. Or did they?
Auntie Kate Osbourne (Ingrid Craigie) a most negative person who speaks to stones and Auntie Eileen Osbourne (Gillian Hanna) who sneaks treats that should be for sale in the General Store that they run while forever worrying about Billy – a bullied boy who loves to read and look at cows and who is trying to muster enough courage to date Helen McCormick (Sarah Greene) the beautiful, tough and foul mouthed sister of Bartley McCormick (Conor MacNeill) who loves telescopes, making fun of others and who has a tough time deciding on which candy he wants to choose and who is forever being brow beaten by his sister.
It’s a boring life in this town. So gossip is always welcomed. But at a price. Johnnypateenmike (Pat Shortt) is willing to deliver his very important choice bits of news for a slab of bacon, or a can of peas or some eggs to help him out as he is caretaker of his ninety year old mom – Mammy (June Watson) who likes to argue with her son and have a few shots of whiskey to get her heart started in the morning – a heart that her son wishes would just stop.
Mr. Shortt reveals that an American film company has arrived to make a documentary – The Man of Aran. Billy wants to audition for the part of a crippled boy. And so he persuades Babbybobby (Padraic Delaney) to take him and Helen and Bartley off Island to try to get into the picture. He does so by delivering a letter from his Doctor (Gary Lilburn) describing an illness that Babbybobby’s wife died of.
Has Billy got only three months to live? Will he get the part? Will he go to America or die of TB? Does he ever get to kiss Helen? Will Mammy ever stop berating her son? Will Mammy live forever? Will we see blood shed? Eggs crushed? Will we learn the truth about Billy’s parents?
Mr. McDonagh has a wonderful lyrical style of writing which can be darkly humorous. His characters say the most horrible things. We shouldn’t laugh but we do.
Daniel Radcliffe’s performance is flawless. He has a depth of character and his inner soul shines right through his penetrating eyes. He is heartbreaking and funny. Mr. McDonagh has written a part that twists and turns as much as Billy’s malformed left foot – we never quite know what the truth is and where we are headed – but we are moved and enlightened during this incredible journey to the Island of Inishmaan. A superb production.
Photos: Marc Brenner
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