Nearly every playwright has that play in their back catalogue. You know the type. Martin McDonagh’s star is certainly on the rise, with the recent cinematic success of Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, his punchy, nothing-off-the-table style is one that is familiar to many. For most of those who enjoy McDonagh’s screen adventures, The Cripple of Inishmaan will come as a disappointment.
Set against the backdrop of the idyllic, untouched life of the islands in the 1930s, this play offers what should be an updated look at that picture postcard dream. The characters are rough around the edges, the biggest local news revolves around the fates of farmyard animals, and there’s nothing more enjoyable than a petty feud between neighbours. The local priest likes to touch girls’ bottoms during choir practice, but that might just be a rumour.
When an American film crew land on a neighbouring island, three young people set off in search of adventure and escape. Among those three is the titular Cripple, Billy. The play circles vaguely around the themes of the search for acceptance and a place called home, but fails to grapple with them in any meaningful way.
That being said, this production of The Cripple of Inishmaan is not unenjoyable. It features a dynamic and vibrant cast, including three very talented young actors; Ruairi Heading as Billy, Jamie Lee O’Donnell as Slippy Helen, and Ian O’Reilly as Bartley. The cast, along with the production’s stellar stage (Owen MacCarthaigh, Ger Sweeney) and sound (Carl Kennedy) design mean that, for the regular theatre-goer, this is something worth a look. However, for anyone seeking out the raw, punchy McDonagh of cinematic fame, perhaps give this one a miss.
Review by Síofra Ni Shluaghadháin