Review – Peninsula Players: The Cripple of Inishmaan

by John Baylis Post

According to the old advice, acting means ‘speak clearly and don’t bump into the furniture’.  Peninsula Players did a good deal better than that when they tackled the challenge of The Cripple of Inishmaan.  The laughter and applause from an appreciative audience rightly concluded with a standing ovation.The play is difficult; described as a ‘dark comedy’, it has plenty of laughs, but it also has plenty of darkness.  Some of it can be played as  pantomime and some as tragedy, because it deals with the everyday banter of a small community, but also with larger issues such as optimism and dreams, cruelty and love, truth and secrets.

Peninsula Players managed to bring out all these qualities.  Senan O’Connor, in the title role, showed us a robust personality underneath  the pathos of the perpetual victim, and he coped well with one very awkwardly-written soliloquy.  Shirley Cahill and Bernice Power, as Kate and Eileen, brought out the wry limitations of dispirited but humorous women, without too much reference to Mrs Doyle.  Ger O’Sullivan showed excellent timing as a credible community gossip, while Vince Power gave a strong, understated performance as Babbybobby.  Far from understated were Niall O’Sullivan as a hyperactive, uncontrolled Bartley and Vicky Sheehan’s self-dramatising  Helen.  In supporting parts, Anne Nidecker was a suitably proper doctor and Dorothy Brophy was a convincingly sharp, drunk, nonagenarian Mammy.

The whole company worked well; in the crucial movie scene, the ensemble exchanges were neatly done, and the production had pace and energy.  The sets by Matthew Higgins were suitably plain and very effective .  T he director (Vicky Sheehan) and producer (Shirley Cahill) should be well pleased — as the audience undoubtedly were.