×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Legit Review: ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’

Daniel Radcliffe expands his range in riotous West End revival of Martin McDonagh's play

With:
Daniel Radcliffe, Gillian Hanna, Ingrid Craigie, Padraic Delaney, Sarah Greene, Gary Lilburn, Conor MacNeill, Pat Shortt, June Watson.

One of the key differences between London and Broadway theatergoers is that Brits don’t applaud the first entrance of a star. But helmer Michael Grandage is taking no chances. He whisks Daniel Radcliffe onstage and into the action so swiftly that audiences barely register his arrival. That’s emblematic of Grandage’s approach to his revival of Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan” which emerges as a riotous evening of first-rate ensemble acting. 

McDonagh is a master technician — he can whip up larger-than-life yet convincing characters and situations faster than any of his peers. As he proved in his gleefully misanthropic “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” and his other wildly successful portraits of dastardly shenanigans in Irish backwaters, he’s expert at creating laugh-aloud comedy out of private cruelty. But if, to put it mildly, compassion has never been his strong suit, this is his play which most elicits genuine empathy.

That local gossip Johnnypateenmike (ruddy, boldly self-aggrandizing Pat Shortt) can get mileage out of such an earth-shaking event as a squabble over a goose is an indication of the daily level of excitement in 1930s Inishmaan. But although they may — and do — rue the fact that nothing changes, everyone from his heavy-drinking, 90-year-old Mammy (glowering June Watson) to the sisters running the village store is staunchly set in their ways.

The exception to all this is orphaned Billy (Radcliffe) who, thanks to a withered left arm and permanently rigid left leg, is universally referred to as “Crippled Billy,” a nickname he understandably hates. He’s secretly sweet on flinty-hearted “Slippy” Helen (headstrong Sarah Greene) but knows he hasn’t a chance with a girl who happily torments everyone, most especially her hapless dimwit of a younger brother Bartley (Conor MacNeill, sweetly gullible in short trousers and favorite Fair Isle sweater.)

So when a Hollywood film crew pitches up scouting for locations and talent, it’s no surprise to find Billy inveigling fisherman Babbybobby (Padraic Delaney) into making a bid for escape.

McDonagh’s stock-in-trade is to conjure jet-black comedy via fast reversals. Almost every word that comes out a character’s mouth is promptly contradicted or, more gradually, revealed to be less than truthful. The danger of all these reversals of expectations is that characters’ sincerity is progressively devalued. It’s to the production’s immense credit that this cast so generously underscores the comedy with truth.

As doughty Elieen, one of Billy’s adoptive aunts, Gillian Hanna scores particularly highly, using whiplash comic timing that keeps her exasperation and grumpiness as a kind of rolling boil. The affection she and baleful Ingrid Craigie feel for Billy is evident but, kept beneath the surface, it has sentiment without becoming sentimental.

Radcliffe considerably increases his range. Alone amid an echt Irish cast, he pulls off the accent with considerable flair, while his dance training for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” pays huge dividends in his adroit handling of Billy’s disability. With the technical side under such firm control, he makes Billy unusually brisk, which makes his character’s plight more poignant than if he were to that more shamelessly beg for pity.

Ultimately, the play is too crafty to carry sustained emotion. But, irradiated by Paule Constable’s time-specific lighting of Christopher Oram’s atmospheric and resolutely not-quaint sets, moments of distilled pain register unusually strongly. So much so, that the sudden quiet chill that descends as the aunts discover their loss is startling. It’s a tribute to the unanimity of Grandage’s production, the third and most complete of his five-play West End season thus far.

Legit Review: 'The Cripple of Inishmaan'

Noel Coward Theater, London; 946 seats; £57.50 ($90) top.  Opened, reviewed June 18, 2013.  Running time:  TWO HOURS, 30 MIN.

Production: A Michael Grandage Company presentation of a play in two acts by Martin McDonagh.

Creative: Directed by Michael Grandage.  Sets and costumes, Christopher Oram; lighting, Paule Constable; sound and music, Alex Baranowski; production stage manager, Katy Bryant.

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Gillian Hanna, Ingrid Craigie, Padraic Delaney, Sarah Greene, Gary Lilburn, Conor MacNeill, Pat Shortt, June Watson.

More Legit

  • Bryan Cranston on the Exhausting Joys

    Listen: Bryan Cranston on the Exhausting Joys of Broadway

    For anyone who doubts that being a Broadway actor can be grueling, let Bryan Cranston set you straight. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a cumulative effect of fatigue that happens on the Broadway schedule that no amount of sleep the night before is going to wash away,” the Emmy and Tony-winning actor [...]

  • Jeff Daniels Variety Broadway to Kill

    How 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Beat the Odds to Deliver a Broadway Smash

    Jeff Daniels slumps into a chair in the Shubert Theatre, grasping an oversize Starbucks and looking bone-crushingly exhausted. His eyelids are heavy, and he seems like a man in desperate need of rest. It’s easy to understand why. It’s late March, and Daniels has just given his 100th Broadway performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town attorney [...]

  • ZZ Top, Caesars Entertainment Team on

    ZZ Top, Caesars Team for Jukebox Musical 'Sharp Dressed Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ZZ Top and Caesars Entertainment are developing “Sharp Dressed Man,” a jukebox musical set to open next year in Las Vegas featuring the band’s greatest hits. Members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all serving as executive producers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is described as an “outrageous, [...]

  • Williamstown Theater Festival 2016 season

    Marisa Tomei Starring in Broadway Revival of 'The Rose Tattoo'

    Marisa Tomei will star in the Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo.” The Oscar-winning actress will play Serafina, a part previously performed by the likes of Maureen Stapleton and Anna Magnani. It’s also a role that Tomei is familiar with, having starred in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production in 2016. “The Rose Tattoo” [...]

  • White Pearl review

    London Theater Review: 'White Pearl'

    Playwright Anchuli Felicia King dismantles the Asian market in this misfiring satire at London’s Royal Court Theatre. “White Pearl” makes a case that those seeking to make inroads into the Far East, perceiving a new El Dorado, are no better that colonial conquistadors of an earlier age — and entirely unequipped to understand the specifics [...]

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content