Well, here is June and our third play of the first season of the Michael Grandage company: a show which, I assumed from the posters, was a one man jobbie with Daniel Radcliffe as the star. I imagined him grimly monologuing about his struggles as a handicapped person, but somehow got it in my mind we were going to be witness to a psychodrama in the style of “Beauty Queen of Leenane.”
Well. Rarely have my guesses from a title and publicity stills been more off. First, while occasionally dark, The Cripple of Inishmaan is a comedy. I thought maybe the preview-watching crowd I was a part of was just misreading the humor; but no, it’s pretty much comedy from the get-go. Bullying, madness, physical disabilities – what a laugh!
Second, Inishmaan is very much an ensemble piece, with lots of good interaction between the nine characters; Radcliffe is frequently not even on the stage. Instead, we get the charming and quirky residents of an Irish island town circa 1935: the dotty “aunties;” the aggressive red headed lass and her brother; the drunk; the loner with a boat.
This, in retrospect, is probably a good thing, as it’s Radcliffe who’s the weakest link in the production. Too physically healthy to be convincing as a cripple, he’s also mealy mouthed and a bit cutesy. Maybe he was just playing “Crippled Billy” for laughs; but I’m convinced the character had greater depths available. Or maybe Radcliffe just doesn’t have a knack for comedy. The role is both not a star turn in terms of time on stage, but also not one as performed.
That said, despite not being perfect, this is certainly an enjoyable show; and while the comedy is a bit too much at times, at least the jokes are genuinely funny. Overall, it was a good investment of my ten quid, and for the same price I would certainly recommend it.
(This review is for a preview performance that took place on June 11th, 2013. It continues through August 31st.)