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From wizarding hero to handicapped weakling, Daniel Radcliffe has moved on from Potter and taken the role of Cripple Billy – sorry, Billy, in this dark comedy written by Martin McDonagh. Along with the village gossip, Johnnypateenmike, and a violent girl named Helen who has an obsession with eggs, the cast represent a small Irish community’s reactions to a Hollywood ‘fillem’ being shot just an island away.
The sheer cruelty of the play did surprise me at first. The mocking Billy Craven receives from his fellow islanders is relentless, so it is no wonder he wastes his days reading and ‘staring at cows’. It is the humble simplicity with which Radcliffe executes his role that captures the sheer vulnerability of the character and should be highly commended. His soliloquy in one scene becomes his biggest challenge, but Radcliffe undoubtedly succeeds in carrying off an assured performance.
Another character whose part was played adeptly by June Watson was Jonnypateenmike’s whisky-drinking mother. In a parent-child relationship that harks back to Steptoe and Son, their endless jibing is a source of humour throughout the play.
Having seen Peter and Alice, also in the Michael Grandage season, I can’t say that this play beat Logan’s masterpiece. The plot was slightly too predictable and the story did not grip me as I expected. Nevertheless, The Cripple of Inishmaan was an admirable production, and the characters should be praised for their strong Irish accents alone! Besides, this play can’t be so bad after all if a fella like Radcliffe wants to come and act in it, right?