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Review Roundup: THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN, Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Opens in the West End

June Watson, Pat Shortt, Conor MacNeill, Gary Lilburn, Gillian Hanna, Sarah Greene, Padraic Delaney and Ingrid Craigie join Daniel Radcliffe in Martin McDonagh's The Cripple Of Inishmaan, directed by Michael Grandage for his new Michael Grandage Company at the Noel Coward Theatre. The show will run now through 31 August 2013.

Set on the remote island of Inishmaan off the west coast of Ireland, word arrives that a Hollywood film is being made on the neighbouring island of Inishmore. The one person who wants to be in the film more than anybody is young Cripple Billy, if only to break away from the bitter tedium of his daily life. Martin McDonagh's comic masterpiece examines an ordinary coming of age in extraordinary circumstances and confirms his position as one of the most original Irish voices to emerge in the second half of the twentieth century. Radcliffe plays the title role in the first major London revival since its premiere at The National Theatre in 1996.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Billington, The Guardian: Daniel Radcliffe is not the first name that would leap to mind in the casting of such a role. But he is the undoubted star of Michael Grandage's revival of Martin McDonagh's 1997 play and proves, as he did in Equus, that he is a fine stage actor with a gift for playing social outsiders...With his twisted left arm and inflexible left leg, he suggests Billy's disability without overstating it. Radcliffe also has the precious gift, vital in a play full of narrative surprises, of seeming artful and vulnerable at the same time...He makes you care about a character who, in some ways, is a clever literary the end, the evening belongs to Radcliffe, who has successfully escaped from the Potter's wheel.

Charles Spencer, The Telegraph: Unlike many child stars, Daniel Radcliffe has grown up gracefully. And with his fine performance in the title role of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple Of Inishmaan (1997), the former boy wizard lends this disconcertingly cruel play what little heart it has...Radcliffe brings a touching stoicism and simplicity to his performance as Cripple Billy, all the more moving because it is so understated...It is surprising to find Michael Grandage directing this black comedy, as he is normally the most humane of directors. But it has to be admitted that the piece is theatrically effective, outstandingly acted and often disgracefully funny.

Paul Taylor, The Independent: Radcliffe may not have the most convincing Irish accent in Grandage's vividly quirky ensemble and there may be folk who wish that he brought a more flayed, heart-snagging physicality to the half-withered Billy's effortful movements. But, to my mind, Radcliffe's honest, sensitive, unshowy performance, by admirably refusing to milk the part for pathos, gives you clear, touching access to the finer-grained spirit that sets the character apart...Grandage's assured production skilfully disguises the predictable unpredictability of the plot twists. His cast give the frustrations of the stock-type islanders a sharp comic vigour...Radcliffe comes across as the genuine article in the midst of all these deliberate authenticities. But, for my taste, McDonagh's play wants too much to have its soda bread and eat it.

Peter Brown, London Theatre: Daniel Radcliffe proves highly convincing in two distinct ways. First, he ably describes a young man whose mobility is constrained by physical disabilities. Additionally, he gives us a Billy who, in every other respect, is an ordinary young man with the aspirations and needs of others of his age. Though Mr Radcliffe deservedly wins our sympathy, he certainly doesn't get all our attention given the array of extraordinary characters. There are uniformly excellent and distinctive performances from all the cast, but I particularly enjoyed Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna as Billy's aunties, June Watson as Johnnypateenmike's alcoholic mother, and Sarah Greene's irascible and violently cantankerous Helen.

Michael Coveney, Perhaps Radcliffe flies a little too close to the mock sentimental heart of the drama, and he seems a little too old for a 17 year-old (though he's only 23). But he's created a memorable physical portrait of the limping reject, with a withered arm Richard Crookback might envy, and a fine ear for McDonagh's vicious rhythms and rubatos.

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Daniel Radcliffe tends to play outsiders, and his character in The Cripple Of Inishmaan is no exception. A teenage orphan with a withered arm and a badly bent leg, Billy Claven is relentlessly mocked by the other inhabitants of his fishing village in the Aran Islands.

Libby Purves, The Times: ...Radcliffe gives Billy a still, melancholy intensity and resolve... The Irish urge to escape a dead-end Paradise burns in the very jerking of his limbs, and drives McDonagh's emotionally cunning plot and themes of romanticism punctured, trapped rurality and the power of stories true or false. It is a perfect ensemble piece: within the revolving stone worlds of Christopher Oram's design each character has its own rhythm and eloquence, absurdity and dignity. Pat Shortt is tremendous as Johnnypateenmike... The two aunts, Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna, are the most perfect double-act to command a London stage in years... And as ever in McDonagh, a jagged, violent darkness feeds the comedy, and laughter glistens in the deepest despair. In its final moments the see-saw of hope and tragedy moves so fast you gasp.

Photo Credit: © Johan Persson

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