The Cripple of Inishmaan
Noel Coward Theatre
Wednesday 10th July 2013
On the tiny islands around the Irish coast, in a miniature village where everyone knows your name and your business, it is a tough enough place to live for any young man of ambition. However, if the young man in question also suffers from a physical birth defect and is referred to by all as "Cripple Billy", the difficulties swell to desperate proportions. The temptation of a Hollywood film company filming just across the water is one too exciting to ignore. Couple this premise with a witty script and a cast of larger-than-life Irish locals, the result is a play fit for the glorious Michael Grandage Company to revive this summer.
The atmosphere of rural Ireland is brought to life with help from the slick revolving set, the shop stocked high with tins of peas, Babbybobby's boat stowed in the dock, Mammy's bedroom dank and gloomy. It is the characters that inhabit this close-knit community however that truly bring it into being. Marvellous characterisations are displayed across the board with very strong, flawless accents to add another layer of authenticity to the location.
Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna, as Aunts Kate and Eileen respectively, are wonderfully eccentric as the sister shopkeepers. As Billy's guardians they fuss over him with clear affection, but it is the hilarious, though not insensitive, dealing with one sister's mental decline while the other hoards confectionery where the characters really come into their own. Accomplished and hugely entertaining performances. Strong support too from Pádraic Delaney as the quietly strong presence that is Babbybobby, Pat Shortt as nosey protector of the gossip Johnnypateenmike, and June Watson as the ever pickled Mammy.
The published star however absolutely does his bit to meet the considerable expectations of his hoards of fans. Daniel Radcliffe plays the heartbreaking role of Billy with fresh innocence, inspiring determination and lithe physicality, maintaining the character's severe disability without a flinch. He is undoubtedly the star of the show and steals the audience's hearts immediately, willing him on towards stardom, love and health throughout the highs and lows of his tragic life. With comedy surrounding much of the rest of the play, the fateful central plot of Billy's story is made all the more painful for the charm of his character.
A beautiful play brought back from it's conception at the National into the capable hands of the Grandage company with worthy success.