The Cripple of Inishmaan – Review

Unsurprisingly for a girl in her early twenties, a huge part of my childhood and teenage years was taken up by Harry Potter.  This passion for Potter has lingered into adulthood and, somewhat embarrassingly, that is what led me to purchase tickets to see Daniel Radcliffe in his latest West End adventure The Cripple of Inishmaan. I saw Equus back in 2007, and was truly blown away by Radcliffe’s performance, helped hugely by the amazing dramatic writing of Equus.  The Cripple of Inishmaan is a whole other kettle of fish, a dark comedy by Martin McDonagh of In Bruge and Seven Psychopaths fame.

Radcliffe plays Billy Claven, invariably called “Cripple Billy”, a young orphan, crippled at birth and raised by two elderly and slightly batty shop keepers. The island of Inishmaan is quiet and dull for Billy, who gets a reputation for staring at cows to pass the time. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, first Radcliffe has a thing for horses, and now cows. Then news comes of Hollywood filming on the nearby island of Inishmoor and Billy, along with a fair bit of deception makes his way there. All very jolly sounding, but Billy’s tale isn’t quite so free of heartache.

The reviews of opening night were fairly mixed so I had relatively modest expectations going into the Noel Coward theatre on Friday; however, I was really impressed! The relatively small cast (just nine people) deliver the lines with perfect comic timing, and the sudden transitions to darker scenes are done tactfully and well. The audience is kept on their toes throughout the play, as was evident from the involuntary gasps and murmurs throughout the audience at each revelation and the raucous laughter moments later as the tension is released. Unsurprisingly, the audience was largely made up of girls gossiping about Daniel Radcliffe, which is to be expected, as whilst the part of Billy is a huge departure from Harry Potter (the only similarity being they are both orphans), the boy wizard is still an inescapable part of Radcliffe’s life. However, you have to wonder, without Radcliffe taking on the lead role, would the play be the sell out success it is?

Undoubtedly the rest of the cast are fabulous, and personally I could hardly tell Radcliffe’s phony Irish accent apart, but I’m sure many people could. Billy’s love interest, Helen, is played by Sarah Greene and her feisty nature, unafraid of kicking randy priests where it hurts, provides an interesting foil to Billy’s considered and bookish character. Despite some harsh lines and loopy characters, there is a lot of heart to The Cripple of Inishmaan which is in someways surprising given the back catalogue of Martin McDonagh’s theatrical writing.

Radcliffe at Stage DoorAfter lengthy bows (the audience on Friday seemed very engaged and appreciative) and final curtain, friends and I went back to stage door to try and get an up close glimpse of the man himself. The crowd back there was unbelievable, even bigger than the crowd at Equus but Daniel Radcliffe went through as many people as he could, signing programmes and taking photos. Overall, The Cripple of Inishmaan was a fabulous play, very funny and dark and showcased Daniel Radcliffe as a young man developing as far more than the boy wizard. Definitely worth going to see whether you are an aging Potter fan or interested in (relatively) contemporary theatre.

The Cripple of Inishmaan, directed by Michael Grandage runs at The Noel Coward theatre in London’s west end from now until August 31st 2013.

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