Left - Cat Lever and Jamie Harding. Cover - Paul Blackwell and Patrick Graham. Photos - Shane Reid
Just the title - The Cripple of Inishmaan - hints that this play has the makings of a good Irish yarn. And so it does, to be sure.
Martin McDonagh’s endearing tale is of a small community living on a remote island off Ireland’s west coast during the Great Depression. It begins in the bucolic local shop and one by one we meet an array of extraordinary island residents alternately funny, endearing and appalling and all played with great aplomb by an accomplished cast.
Director Adam Cook subtly and satisfyingly fashions this play in a way that makes the most of the characters and lets the story unfold.
Ailsa Paterson has created a stunning set using a rustic setting, and a revolving stage surrounding by a moat of rocks. During the day the set is the local shop in which all of the action and gossip takes place. At night the scenery revolves and the moat is lit blue, becoming a sparkling backdrop for the ocean scenes.
Accent Coach Jonathan Mill has ensured that the lovely Irish lilt is authentic and this has an almost lullaby affect, as only the Celtic languages can. Composer Stuart Day has selected haunting Celtic music to soothe during the scene changes.
In this setting the characters can sparkle. None more so than the multi-faceted Paul Blackwell, in whose hands the island gossipmonger JohnnyPateenMike is awful, funny and then surprisingly heroic.
Patrick Graham also shines as the gruff, softhearted Babby Bobby, whose patience and decency is tested to the limit. Jacqy Phillips is a true gem as the irascible Eileen, as is Carmel Johnson as Kate.
Luke Clayson proves a delight and a talent for comedy as the clueless Bartley, an easy target for his strident cursing sister Helen (Cat Lever).
Veterans Don Barker and Bridget Walters are also in fine form in the roles of the doctor, and Mammy.
It is Jamie Harding as Cripple Billy who faces the challenging role of depicting the central character around whom the story revolves. Harding is brilliant as he portrays Billy’s sharp mind, crippled body and kaleidoscope of emotions and desires.
It is his desire to leave the island and experience something beyond the restrictions of his own small world that stirs the undercurrents of island life and leads each resident into trickier waters. How each individual negotiates the currents of their own lives is often poignant, sometimes unexpected and ultimately satisfying, if somewhat sad.
State Theatre Company of South Australia presents
The Cripple of Inishmaan
By Martin McDonagh
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Dates: 31 October – 22 November 2008
Bookings: Bass www.bass.net.au