Review of The Cripple of Inishmaan

Playbill cover for Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan (Image source :

You know that feeling that you get when you are somewhere that you shouldn’t laugh but you really want to laugh but it might reflect badly on you if you do laugh and so you laugh even harder because you shouldn’t be laughing at all? That’s how it feels to listen to some of the lines delivered in Martin McDonagh’s play, The Cripple of Inishmaan now playing at the Cort Theater.

When a film crew from Hollywood arrive on the Aran Islands to film  Man of Aran, a local boy, Billy, sees it as his chance to leave the clutches of his well meaning but overbearing aunties, Kate and Eileen Osbourne.

The Island Billy lives on, Inishmaan, is remote, boring and the biggest news, apart from the film crew arriving on Inishmore, is that a cat bit a goose and a bible was thrown into the sea. Johnnypatteenmike, Pat Short,  is the island’s “newsman,” and gets paid in eggs for his great news.

A great amount of politically incorrect jokes makes this play a guilty pleasure! I shouldn’t have laughed at the lines, I mean they are so politically incorrect, but what a release! Sometimes being very PC can be a bit strangling. And to hear the stuff that could cause a lot of issues in real life stated on stage is very funny! I just wonder if I’m going to get asked if the Irish really are that “thick!” Some of us are, I suppose, but no more than any other ethnic group, there’s a balance between thickos and intellectuals.

Here’s a sampling of some of the funniest lines, and there were a lot more than these jewels:

“A Blackman with no arms and no legs wasn’t really that threatening!” “Kick your black arse back to Antrim!” Girls with big green teeth.”Or how about this doosie? “As ugly as a brick of baked shite!” That one I’ll put in my back pocket and use  for the next Miss Universe pageant.

A great number of colloquialisms and slang terms were over the audience’s heads I believe. Because I am Irish, I was the only one laughing at the jokes sometimes. But that’s alright too. There were plenty of other laughs to be had.

Martin McDonagh has a wicked sense of humor. And I mean WICKED! How cruel is it to laugh at a poor cripple boy, Billy, played by Radcliffe? It’s cruel, alright! But the real truth is he’s the most sensible lad on the island, the second largest of the Aran Islands. Inishmore being the largest, and Inisheer being the smallest. See! Now ya know! Although, hold on a second, Billy has a rare condition that leaves him staring fondly at cows. For hours.

Daniel Radcliffe was excellent as Cripple Billy, very deserving of the nickname. Cripple Billy stands out on the tiny Island of Inishmaan, because his defect is visible. But others are crippled in less visible ways. In true McDonagh form, the most seemingly normal person is also the most violent.

Pat Short as Johnnypattenmike and Daniel Radcliffe as Cripple Billy in Martin McDonagh's play The Cripple of Inishmaan (Image source: The Guardian)

Pat short steals the play as the gossipy Johnnypateenmike. Short is no stranger to those of us who loved Father Ted and Da’Unbelievables. His presence onstage is just fantastic.

Well worth seeing. Martin McDonagh has a rare gift for making me laugh at things I shouldn’t laugh at and feel empathy for those I really shouldn’t feel empathy for at all. He’s the man who gave us In Bruges, one of my all time favorite movies, where I feel sorrow for two drug addicted, beer swigging hit men.

The scenic design included an old fashioned stone cottage shop interior, a beach wall with a currach (local boat) and the stone wall interior bedroom of a cottage/ hostel. Absolutely beautifully done by Christopher Oram. This play was probably among one of my favorite Irish plays that I have seen this year. The Night Alive is still on the top of the list though.


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