The island’s hot ticket this week was the Waiheke Theatre Company’s production of The Cripple Of Inishmaan, Anglo-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy set in the far west of Ireland and directed here on our own island by Stephanie Wilkin.
Not many young actors would leap at the prospect of playing a character that has no chance of winning the girl, riding off into the sunset, being the hero or even playing a part as physically restrictive as Cripple Billy but Kurt McCarthy obviously knows a good role when he sees one and made short work of playing with the audience’s automatic sympathies.
Harriet Crampton and Lynn Waldegrave must have enjoyed their free-reign on gossip not often afforded these days and Tara Davis, as Slippy Helen, the bully of the story, obviously had fun with the role, the fecking this and fecking that and the pegging of the eggs.
John Brown, playing Johnnypateenmike, had the lilt and wave of the accent down pat, reminding me of Ronnie Drew so much so that I had to put on a Dubliners record the moment I got home.
The pace of the language in the far west of Ireland and the around-about-way of saying even the simplest of things is a product of literal translation from Gaelic to English (most people on Inishmaan still speak Irish) and is a large part of the comedy of the play, as is the curious habit of illustrating a seemingly innocent enough observation with ridicule, as Billy’s aunt, speaking about cripple Billy, tells us: “you’d see nicer eyes on a goat”.
I’ve seen many Irish plays over the years concentrate on accent over pace to the detriment of the hidden comedy in the writing; not so with this production.
The play itself exposes the layers of myth and soft focus that film makers and writers have applied to rural Ireland over the years, a patina that writer McDonagh no doubt meant to comically touch upon, especially with Billy’s screen-test scene, but somehow, especially after now seeing the play produced all over the world, is helping to underpin himself.
This was Stephanie Wilkin’s third production for the Waiheke Theatre Company, a hat-trick of very well received plays after The Vicar of Dibley and The Witches. What will be number four, I wonder? • Anthony McNamara