Daniel Radcliffe is the obvious draw card for this latest Broadway production by British director, Michael Grandage, and his company, but there are many more attractions in this fine Martin McDonagh play about an Irish boy trying to find his own way in life.
Radcliffe plays the part of Billy Craven, an outcast within the community due to his physical disabilities, who, to everyone’s surprise, gets to go to Hollywood to screen test for a documentary about the his hometown Inishmaan. There are many twists and turns in this story and the narrative is cleverly woven by McDonagh resulting in a very satisfying and optimistic end to the piece.
Radcliffe plays this difficult part convincingly, with his shuffling feet and his contorted right arm, and clearly manages to endear himself to the audience. Although, those female fans coming to see him play a grown-up Harry Potter-esque character will be dismayed. Two teenagers sitting next to me lamented as they intermittently snapped photos of him during the performance, “It’s Daniel but he is a cripple and also he is dying.”
Billy lives with his aunts (Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Craigie) who bicker and bitch and are your archetypal Irish old biddies of the 1930s who, because of their innocence or their mundane lives, get their wires crossed and live lives of quiet desperation. They are strong characters though and they are both never stuck for something to say. There are very amusing scenes with the town gossip, Johnnypateenmike (Pat Shortt), as they mock him with their cutting retorts. He taunts them with his empty town gossip but in the end we learn he had a vital role to play in Billy’s early life.
Billy’s love interest Helen McCormack (Sarah Greene) is a feisty young red haired lass. Her restlessness and bad temper was thrilling to watch and also amusing. Greene has great physicality and plays a young girl struggling to find her identity in the cold and unforgiving landscape of Inishmann.
The set by Christopher Oram is dark and dramatic and the use of the revolving stage takes us from the Osbournes’ shop, to the Irish coast, to America and then back again with ease. It evokes the harshness of the isle and the design ensures the sea is a strong presence as it has much to do with the narrative.
Johnnypateenmike’s mother was played by June Watson who took pleasure in the drink and also verbally abusing her son which allowed for much dark humour within their scenes. Much of the play centred around how we can mistrust one another and how it is difficult to show love between family members. It is a touching tale that conveys the idea that love can be shown in all manner of ways.
This idea is driven home with the climactic moment of the play when Billy makes a life changing decision.
This play opens on Saturday 20th April 2014 and all bodes well for A successful transatlantic crossing for the Michael Grandage Company. Radcliffe is a conscientious actor who will draw in the crowds for this limited season.
The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh
Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street, Broadway, NYC.
Review on April 15th, 2014 (Preview evening)
Photo credit: Walter McBride