by John Conor O’Conor
‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ is a large portion of comedy served with sprinkles of bitter tragedy. The play is a satire of Irish bad habits, such as the Irish habit of belittling our neighbours.
The islanders poke fun, at times sadistic fun, at Billy the Cripple’s ambition to escape the island.Unlike the other characters, Cripple Billy is a tragic figure, who tries to break free from island life despite his physical handicap and with no support from his fellow islanders. Billy’s view of the island changes when he is far from home, much like many Irish people far from home.
Peninsula Players bring the characters and the island of the 1930’s to life with great energy and sympathy. The island’s small news results in biting dialogue between the characters and the physical horse play is acted with great zeal.
Senan O’Connor as Cripple Billy is acted with an honesty and tenderness as a real person, with a real physical disability. Aunty Kate, played by Shirley Cahill, who under stress talks to stones, walks a line between comedy and emotional sympathy, like a caring Irish mother. Bernice Power as Aunty Eileen, has a sweet tooth under stress, is acted with grace and a delicate touch. Johnnypateenmike is acted so convincingly by Ger O’Sullivan, I believe he may be a real professional gossip in real life accompanied by his walking stick. Mammy O’Dougal, Johnnypateenmike mother, is an aging alcoholic is also played with gusto and conviction by Dorothy Brophy.
Helen, the naughty young girl fending off men of all ages, is acted by Vicky Sheehan with great energy and wonderful facial expressions. Her brother Bartley, a good for nothing young lad with a sweet tooth, is vividly brought to life in a very natural performance by Niall O’Sullivan. Helen and Bartley’s horseplay sparkles on stage, adding very enjoyable slap stick to this vivid life of the island.The fisher Babbybobby, (Vince Power) is played with a serious but sensitive streak, and a menacing air of anger needed for this character.
This is a performance that will make you laugh out loud and will last a long time in your memory.