Sunday 18 March 2018

The Cripple steals the show at the Athenaeum

Cast members from Enniscorthy Drama Group's production of The Cripple of Inishmaan
Cast members from Enniscorthy Drama Group's production of The Cripple of Inishmaan

Town and Country Life with Maria Nolan

If you haven't already seen Enniscorthy Drama's latest production of the Martin McDonagh classic The Cripple of Inishmaan now showing at the Athenaeum, then book your tickets now for next Friday or Saturday night March 31 and April 1 at 8pm.

This is one of EDG's best performances to date with sterling acting from each of the main characters brilliantly bolstered by those in supporting roles. In fact each and every role is excellently cast and expertly executed and tremendous credit must go to director John O'Gorman, who incidently is simply magnificent as local gossip monger Johnnypateenmike, who relieves the boredom of life on Inishmaan by spreading gossip and lies to the islanders who seem to revel in the misery of their neighbours.

The play, which is a rather dark depiction of Ireland, its people and their attraction to America and its promised riches, is an absurd comedy about Irishness and the bitter sweetness of Irish life. Martin McDonagh has managed to tap into the way humans can be so cruel to each other and none better than the raucous Helen McCormick or rather Slippy Helen, who likes nothing better than to peg eggs at clergymen who feel her arse. Gemma Delaney has made this part her own from the moment she steps on stage you look forward to seeing and hearing more of her cruel but hysterical remarks.

Local boatman Babbybobby somewhat restores your faith in human nature when he displays a degree of kindness to Cripple Billy but then takes you by surprise with his violence towards Johnnypateenmike. Fintan Kelly is well cast in the role of the boatman and has both physique for the part and the talent to show two very different aspects of Irish character.

Julie Fox and Joanne McCabe as aunts or 'pretend aunts' Kate and Eileen are a most suitable pair and compliment each other perfectly, both looking the part and with having just the right feel for it. We both emphatise and sympathise with their love of Cripple Billy. Anne Marie Whelan gives another fantastic performance as the drunken mammy of Johnnypateenmike and the scene with herself, Joe Doyle as the doctor and Johnnypateenmike is one of the funniest in the play.

Alan Kinsella who plays the unfortunate brother of Slippy Helen is a most likeable and harmless character and takes all the abuse Helen hurls at him both verbally and physically in the best of humour - even the egg incident - which was particularly amusing as Helen says 'Let's play Ireland and England; you can be Ireland and I'll be England,' she says as she proceeds to pelt eggs at him. McDonagh understands that there is no tragedy without humour and takes it to absurdity in some parts of this play.

The play is full of colour, life and longing and there is wonderful depth to each of the characters as they expose multiple layers of Irishness and the myth that surrounds that Irishness but James Freeman steals the show with his warm, sensitive performance as the bookish Cripple who dreams of escaping the boredom of life on Inishmaan in 1934.

This is a young man who is already very comfortable centre stage and in a soft, subtle way manages to completely master the role and is undoubtedly the star of the play.

Need I say more, if you haven't seen it book your tickets at the Athenaeum now or you'll regret it!

Enniscorthy Guardian