Review

The Cripple of Inishmaan, as you may be aware, is a 1996 play that was inspired from a documentary film based on the people dwelling on the island of Inishmaan. It focused on the primitive ways of life involving hunting of sharks, farming of rocks and fishing off cliffs on the limestone islands located close to the Bay of Galway. In one of the scenes of the play you can see the Inishmaan residents hooting and throwing eggs on the bed sheet that is being used for screening of the documentary film. It serves as the best example of Martin McDonagh’s artistry. The hilarious way in which he builds up the comic situation, combined with the aching poignancy of each one of his characters for their refusal of watching themselves in the documentary film, shows how good is McDonagh with his work!

Billy Claven played by Daniel Radcliffe is quite different from his casually cruel, rude and crude neighbors. He’s a gentle boy who has the ability of calming his raging feelings by indulging in book reading and watching cows grazing silently in the fields. The play’s plot, which opens up with boffo laughter, gradually advances towards a slightly ironic ending, turning the plans of Billy, the sensitive boy of getting himself cast in a documentary film and getting transported to the Hollywood for its filming.

However, his neighbors constantly make him a target by laughing at his physical deformities, without ever get a whiff of his constant yearning of leaving the island. Nor does any of them pay any attention to his constant requests of learning the truth behind his parents’ deaths, who are believed to have drowned soon after his birth. Even his foster aunts, Eileen and Kate Osbourne refuse to divulge the terrible secret of his parents’ death.

The only person who possibly knows the complete story behind their deaths is Johnnypateenmike, an extremely funny character. He is a gossip monger who has the required skill of digging into all sorts of information and then delivering it with plenty of theatrics. However, for some possible reason even his lips are sealed on the subject. However, Billy believes that it may be possible to extract his parents’ details from Johnny’s vindictive mother.

McDonagh very effectively throws light on Irish humor, which can be sometimes very clever and cutting, often without any intention of inflicting pain. Irish people can be regularly seen indulging in marvelous musical verbiage, serving as a protective camouflage for the truths they resist speaking openly.

None of the Inishmaan natives seem daunted by the desolation of the island, except for one character – Babbybobby, a fisherman who had recently lost his wife to TB. The team does a phenomenal job by working with the meanest possible materials like dirty old rags, rough stones and raw wood to create the right atmosphere in the play. The costume and set designer Christopher Oram is good at creating vivid images of people living on the limestone island, right in the middle of the sea.

Everyone is so insensitive to Billy’s misery that no one notices how desperately and deeply he loves Helen, a foul-mouthed girl.

All in all, it’s a very entertaining play that is to be experienced to be believed!