REVIEW - ‘The Cripple of Inishmann’

“You shouldn’t laugh at other people’s misfortunes,” said Cripple Billy to the slow-witted Bartley. “Why?” Bartley responds. “But it’s fun.”

“You shouldn’t laugh at other people’s misfortunes,” said Cripple Billy to the slow-witted Bartley. “Why?” Bartley responds. “But it’s fun.”

Newtown Hall was the venue for Martin Mc Donagh’s cruel comedy ‘The Cripple of Inishmann’ where the north Kildare audience laughed, cried, sighed and crused during the three-hour performance.

Nine months in rehearsals, the Teresa Brayton Players once again proved the importance of community theatre with its outstanding performance of this twisted black comedy. Directed by Paddy Cosgrave the play is an emotional rollercoaster where despite their faults, of which there are many, you start to actually care for the horrible folk of Inishmann.

Throughout the performance the Teresa Brayton Players didn’t hold back. People get beaten down, wounds probed and dreams shattered on the Newtown stage. Much of the humour comes from laughing at disabilities - physical, mental, emotional - and just about all the vividly drawn, impoverished inhabitants of this isolated Aran Island have at least one. In this way the characters become somewhat dehumanised. However Director Cosgrave and his cast managed to web this darkness with a sweetness of understanding that crafts each scene.

Set on the small Aran Islands community of Inishmaan off the West of Ireland in 1934 the town is excited to learn of a Hollywood film crew’s arrival in neighbouring Inishmore to make a documentary about life on the islands. ‘Cripple’ Billy Claven (Donnachadh O’Brien) is eager to escape the island of gossip, poverty and boredom, vies for a part in the film and to everyone’s surprise, the orphan and outcast gets his chance. Billy’s adorable yet vicious aunts Kate (Anne Mallon) and Eileen Osbourne (Eithne McManus) are so very Irish. Every town has a ‘goswhore’ like Johnnypateenmike (Kenny Davy) who commands the stage with his sharp wit and posture. The scrutinisingly funny bedroom scene with his alcoholic Mammy (Carol McDonnell) and the bed pan will be forever etched on the audience’s mind. Tough girl Slippy Helen (Margaret Sims) and her brother Bartley (Declan Dillion) play the dim-witted ‘country cousins’ with ease. Babbybobboy Bennett ((Enda Gorman), the boatman whose wife died of TB, is the darkest of the characters. The beating scene holds no punches and stunned the audience to silence. The only straw of sense came from the Doctor (Robbie Maguire), who was the voice of sanity and authority in the small town community.

Each scene is perfectly dressed, from the cans of the mushy peas to the ropes of a currach, credit to hardworking duo of Adam Dillion and Benny Cusack. The lighting by Marion Dillion added to the bleary atmosphere and brought the monologues to an eerie life, along with the bleak West of Ireland look by Diane Walsh and Cathy Dowd.

Cripple Billy (Donnachadh O’Brien) finally returns and evenutually finds some respect and affection from among those who were the instigators of his ridicule, a redemption among the townsfolk. But a final twist of fate turns the tables again.

Cruel and savage, hilarious and heartwarming, The message of this black twisted play was not lost on the Newtown audience, no man is an island. That is the compassionate genius of Martin McDonagh. All in all, the Teresa Brayton Players oozed style, taking on The Cripple’s melodramatic structure, dysfunctional characters and sarcastic dialogue with terrific gusto. For anyone who missed it, do not despair, they will present the play one last time on 10 November in the Hamlet Court Hotel in Johnstownbridge for charity, but be advised book your tickets early because it is sure to sell out. For tickets telephone 0868278004.

- Lisa Deeney