The Cripple of Inishmaan - directed by Sarah Wilson
First seen in 1996 this play is an unusual choice but it is pleasing to see a group willing to tackle it. It certainly presents some challenges to the cast not just vocally with the need to work on the accent and the use of dialect in the lines but also to capture some of the essential elements of the piece. The word 'cripple' can be applied to many of the characters for different reasons and the insular atmosphere of an island existence in the early 1930s is clear in the quality of the dialogue. McDonagh has absorbed the rhythms and cadences of the local speech into his work and the repetitive nature of the language make it a challenging script to learn.
Front of House The Company
This group always has a friendly and efficient front of house system which is a great asset to any group. There was a good and supportive audience in evidence.
Production manager Sarah Wilson
Sarah has headed up a supportive team effort here giving the production a real cohesion between back and front stage.
Programme Design, Publicity & Box Office Janet Hancock
The design of the programme reflected the isolation of the setting and the characters with an effective font choice displaying the title of the play. Interesting and useful information helped to put the choice of play into context for the audience, overall a successful design.
Stage Manager Chris Saxton
The set changes were managed smoothly and unobtrusively, clearly well rehearsed.
Set Design & Construction Chris Saxton & the Company
This set design worked excellently. It was simple but the stone effect really lent an air of authenticity to the setting and provided the insular atmosphere for the actors. Much care has been taken over the detail of the set dressing which again made the shop seem all the more real. The sacks, crates, straw (and endless supply of peas!) all captured the rural nature of the piece. When you needed to create a new space for the hotel bedroom or Granny O'Dougal's you sensibly adapted the area downstage right rather than go for a whole, radical re-setting of the stage. The boat placed at the front of the raised stage took us successfully to the external setting and really brought the action to the audience.
Lighting Dave Hancock
The lighting softened the mood of the interior set and gave a mellow glow to the shop which also helped to create the air of intimacy in the exchanges that took place there. When the action moved to the hotel room or Granny O'Dougal's the spaces were clearly defined by the lighting. The outdoor scenes were slightly brighter - totally appropriate to support the action. The use of the film projection was very effective too.
Sound Chris Saxton & Janet Hancock
The sound cues were accurate and appropriate with good use of music to cover the scene changes, pre-performance and interval times.
Prompt Angela Gee
Angela provided discreet support for the actors but sadly was needed on a number of occasions.
Props Carol Danaher
These looked good with careful attention to detail such as the way the eggs were presented and the actors seemed completely at ease with their props. A well-chosen selection helping to create an authentic feel to the piece.
Costumes Maisie Tunbridge & the Company
These were largely well-co-ordinated with shawls, aprons and hair in buns for the older women contrasting nicely with Helen's shorter skirt, plaits and woolly hat. Babybobby's fisherman's outfit looked good and his thick jumper helped to create the 'feel' of the outdoor scenes. The doctor and Nanny O'Dougal looked suitably in character.
There were two points I would raise over the costumes, one is with Johnnypateemike's jacket which looked in good condition and had some very 'obvious' patches stuck on it, perhaps a more faded one could have been found. Secondly regarding Nanny O'Dougal, her appearance needed ageing with a few touches of make up to enhance the pretence of her great age.
Eileen Osbourne Tricia Childs
I really enjoyed Tricia's performance, she gave a natural sincerity to the role with good reactions and subtle responses. Vocally, she sustained the accent well and managed to retain clarity of diction by making good use of the lower register of her voice. She clearly portrayed the character as the more worldly of the two sisters and her verbal sparring with other characters was well-paced. A convincing and engaging portrayal.
Kate Osbourne Jo Fosker
As Eileen, Jo did capture the 'other worldliness' of Kate and physically was very good in the role. Her mannerisms and gestures were wholly appropriate and her repetitive pacing at times of stress worked well. The accent proved more tricky with Jo's voice occasionally becoming quite high-pitched which affected the clarity of delivery.
Johnnypateenmike Syd Smith
This is a very demanding role, not just in terms of the amount the character has to say but also in the delivery which requires a high level of energy, pace and vivacity. Unfortunately Syd was not secure with his lines and this led to a drop in pace of delivery, a shame, as vocally he was strong and clear. I would also like to have seen more relaxed body language from him to cultivate the air of someone with secrets to share.
Billy Liam O'Connor
Liam sustained the demanding physicality of this role exceptionally well and grew in confidence as the play went on. He has a good, clear voice and coped well with the accent throughout. There was the potential to work more on Billy's facial reactions to bring out the more subtle aspects of the character. Liam's scenes with Helen were strong but in the second half there were a number of prompts needed (for a few of the cast) and this did cause a wobble. It is really hard to eliminate your own mannerisms when playing a character but there was a habit of flicking your hair away which didn't sit well with the portrayal of Billy. What I can see here though, is real potential, I hope Liam will continue to develop his skills through performing.
Bartley Scott Wilson
Scott looked good in this role and reacted well to the other characters. He coped stoically with the 'egging' by Helen and his physical performance grew in confidence as the play progressed. However Scott needs help to develop the ability to really project his voice as we hardly heard him and consequently missed some great lines.
Helen Gemma Anthony
This was a strong performance from Gemma both vocally and physically, she caught the impetuous nature of the character well ensuring the nervousness of the other characters who were just waiting for her to do something outrageous. She was confident with her lines and this helped and supported other performances particularly those of Billy and Bradley.
Babbybobby Geoff Hadley
Geoff's bluff manner and sturdy appearance helped to consolidate this characterisation. He gave a confident performance and showed another side to this island life. His anger at Billy's deception and his annoyance with Johnnypateenmike were clearly conveyed to the audience.
Dr. McSharry Chris Wright
As the doctor, Chris had the frustration at his wayward patients clearly portrayed through his facial expressions and gestures. He had an air of weariness in his manner too. There was an issue over his lines and he needed the support of the prompt a few times to recover. Although a small role it is crucial to the narrative.
Mammy O'Dougal Clare Woodward
Clare managed this delightful cameo well, she adopted the body language of a much older woman and introduced some appropriate mannerisms providing some lovely comic moments. Her exchanges with Johnnypateenmike were sharp and feisty and won the audience's sympathy, we almost felt we were colluding with her mischief. Most of her lines were delivered clearly and confidently, one prompt was needed.
Director Sarah Wilson
From the opening scene of the play the characters and setting were crystal clear to the audience. It does take a little time for the audience's ear to 'tune in' to the dialogue and the audience were listening intently.
Johnnypateenmike's long speeches in the first half were all delivered in the same place on the stage with the aunts also in the same place. He strikes me as a more animated character and given that Kate has many repetitive moves near the start of the play it would have been good to see more use of movement and gesture to help the characterisation.
Once the actors had relaxed into their roles a little the pace picked up and the story unfolded well.
The second half of the play did not run so smoothly, there were a large number of prompts slowing the pace and causing a real 'wobble' in the confidence of the cast. They did recover as the play drew to its final scenes. Billy's re-appearance needed to be more dramatic especially in terms of the reactions of the other characters, given the drama of his leaving stronger initial reactions would have been appropriate and Kate's 'not needing the stone' moment could have been heightened.
It was unfortunate that so many prompts were need on the performance I saw, it did impact on the overall performance. However, the group is to be commended on the effort and care they took over working on the accent and dialect of the piece. It was also clear that the group had risen to the challenge of the script and enjoyed their performances, that shows confidence in the director. The audience too enjoyed the chance to see this play.
Thank you for your hospitality,"
Maggie Fisher and Penny Davidson-North Essex Theatre Guild