REVIEW: The Cripple of Inishmaan

Irish charms at the ADC

ADC ADC Mainshow Cambridge Theatre student theatre the cripple of inishmaan

The Cripple of Inishmaan is the story of a close-knit community of an isle off the coast of Ireland, their lives and of the young orphan, Billy, known on the island as “Cripple Billy”, as he seeks to come to terms with his disability and the mysterious death of his parents.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the performance was its authenticity, both in its portrayal of Irishness and in the crafting of the characters. The two “aunties” (Ellie Cole and Kim Alexander) of Billy were especially convincing as young women playing old Irish gossips. They pulled off the accent perfectly, which was difficult enough, but the real charm came from the minor details in their facial expressions and general demeanours, displaying some skilled acting talents and likely some vigorous studying of Father Ted.

[Credit: Johannes Hjorth]

With the fiddle music between scenes, even the quite simple stage props that were used, as well as the wholly convincing portrayal of Ireland in the actors’ accent and manner, kept the audience engrossed in the play even when not much was happening. In this, it made up for one of the weaknesses of the play itself which is that the story is chiefly told through the gossiping of the characters.

This could be potentially tedious were it told by people of a more familiar culture but when placed in an Irish context, and done as well as it was, it proved more quaint than trying.

[Credit: Johannes Hjorth]

The intellectual appeal of the play lies mostly in the many twists and prompts for the audience to consider what might be next. However, towards the end of the play, much of these revelations causes the sense of being overwhelmed as one came after the other and another, as well as some confusion. This is due, in part, to how this spinning of plot often came about through the mode of gossip which characterises the play.

More emphasis might have been placed on these core points in the play and perhaps what was also needed was some finer tunings of improvisation to have these points expressed in a more compelling manner. The charms of Ireland could not glaze over these matters of plot.

[Credit: Johannes Hjorth]

Similarly, some of the changes in the characters at the close of the play seemed quite sudden and lacking in development which, though possibly a weakness in the script itself, the director might have amended for by highlighting important scenes that might have given more context.

A tendency to violence expressed toward the end in the otherwise kind-hearted character of Babbybobby (Ed Limb) might have been alluded to in an earlier scene where he attacked the character of Johnny (Henry Phillips) however, to the audience, these two outbursts of violence would have seemed entirely separate considering their contexts.

Overall, it was an enjoyable performance and the acting and set really did seem to bring to life something of 1930s Ireland.