My first encounter with The Cripple of Inishmaan was in 2014, when I saw the play on Broadway starring Daniel Radcliffe. It doesn’t take much more than his name for me to become interested in something, so when my mom and I saw the production in May, we didn’t know much about what we were getting into.
Turns out, the play was more than a pleasant surprise–it was a delight, or at least a delight of the truly dark comedic kind.
The Cripple of Inishmaan takes place in 1934 on the Irish isle of Inishmaan and stars a quirky ensemble of characters in this small town. The lead character, Cripple Billy, is a seventeen-year-old orphan (aka the type of character Daniel Radcliffe knows well) being raised by two pseudo-aunts. Billy is the butt of most jokes on the island, especially from Helen, the girl he naturally has a crush on.
The biggest plot element in the play is that the characters have heard a Hollywood film is being made in neighboring Inishmore about a crippled boy, so Billy and a few others go to audition. We also learn early in the play that Billy has apparently been given a terminal diagnosis from his doctor, so to keep from upsetting his aunts, he hopes to travel to America to die.
The play is hilarious and terribly sad at the same time. If the British are famous for black comedy, this is a perfect example of what that means–snarky, rude, sweet, and depressing all at once. The Cripple of Inishmaan was the first of the books I received for Christmas that I’ve delved into, and it was a perfect (if not bleak) way to end 2015.