Noel Coward Theatre, London

Theatre review: Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan - I'm a celebrity, get me out of here

3.00

The artist formerly know as Harry Potter is hell-bent on Hollywood in a revival of an Irish tragicomedy

A movie is about to be shot, and some ordinary folks will get to star in it, if they make the grade. Yes, in Martin McDonagh's revived 1990s tragicomedy The Cripple of Inishmaan – set on Galway's Aran Islands in the 1930s – the local youngsters are dreaming of overnight celebrity. McDonagh was, by the way, inspired by the docu- drama The Man of Aran, made for the cinema in the early Thirties.

In his fictionalised stage version of Inishmaan, there has been diddly-squat to do in this boring back-of-beyond, except gawp at cows, or start a feud if you have a neighbour within a stone's throw. But now, we gather, a big-name American film-maker has fetched up and is to hold local auditions.

Almost everyone in this tough, rural community mocks Billy, the titular cripple and orphan boy – played by Daniel Radcliffe in Michael Grandage's new West End production. The islanders particularly scorn the lad's hopes of featuring in the film. Determined, nonetheless, he prepares to con his way to Hollywood and hurt other's feelings if necessary.

Whether this will turn out to be a rags-to-riches, happy-ever-after romance hangs in the balance.

The good news is that Radcliffe's acting has substantially improved since his merely proficient performance in Equus some years back. His Billy is quietly stalwart. The Irish accent is surprisingly OK, and the disabilities (involving a clenched hand and a stiff leg) aren't hammed up. Nor does he milk the fact that he's sweet on Helen, the flame-haired, teenage termagant who regularly strides into his aunts' spartan grocery store.

That said, Sarah Greene's Helen and her motormouthed kid brother (Conor MacNeill) can be wearisome. The older cast members are much more winning: Gillian Hanna as Radcliffe's no-nonsense Aunt Eileen; Ingrid Craigie as the mildly batty Aunt Kate; and June Watson as the booze-glugging nonagenarian mammy of Pat Shortt's Johnnypateenmike, the gossipmonger.

McDonagh's script, penned when he was only 26, is packed with cranky characters, running gags and entertainingly rude slurs, plus psychopathic moments. It's something like Billy Roche's Wexford Trilogy or JM Synge's Playboy of the Western World crossed with Father Ted and Steptoe and Son. That said, this time round it feels like a calculated crowd-pleaser and faintly bogus – maybe because McDonagh was born and bred in London, rather than Galway.

In Noël Coward's lesser-known comedy Relative Values (Theatre Royal, Bath ***) – directed by Trevor Nunn as a touring Theatre Royal Bath production – it's 1951 and the chill wind of social change is blowing through the Marshwoods' aristocratic mansion in Kent. It's messing up the class hierarchies.

The Countess's long-serving maid, Caroline Quentin's Moxie, is in a tizzy. She tearfully declares she's resigning because the Countess's son, Nigel – a peer of the realm – intends to marry Miranda Frayle, a jumped-up English commoner turned Hollywood minx. Moxie and Miranda have a past connection.

The Countess (Patricia Hodge) wants to appear kind and open-minded, though she's a crafty manipulator. Massively promoting Moxie proves to be no solution. The status quo is re-established with Katherine Kingsley's Miranda, exposed, sent packing.

Nunn's production is pretty as a picture, with elegant couture and a gilded Neoclassical drawing room (design by Stephen Brimson Lewis). The conservative conclusion is tempered by a final glimpse of Moxie and the butler, Crestwell, making themselves at home while the grandees are out. One might muse, as well, on the fact that Miranda's surburban roots aren't so far from Coward's. Still, the dialogue is sometimes verbose and the plot silly.

As for the cast, Quentin and Hodge are both on fine, unshowy form, and Steven Pacey is charmingly droll as the Countess's lounging nephew, Peter. One weak link is, regrettably, Rory Bremner, making his stage debut as the grandiloquent Crestwell – a mannered, twitchy performance, though affable enough.

With Conor McPherson's compelling new play, The Night Alive (Donmar, London *****), we're back in Ireland, in the dramatist's native Dublin. Here Tommy (Ciarán Hinds) and his odd-jobbing mate, Doc (Michael McElhatton), are on the skids. Recently divorced and bankrupt, Tommy is living in stupendous squalor, renting a bedsit from his disapproving uncle (Jim Norton). When Tommy saves a scraggy waif (Caoilfhionn Dunne) from a battering – bringing her in off the street – there's trouble ahead, but also unexpectedly profound, unconditional love.

Admittedly, the playwright's self-directed premiere could do with a few textual cuts. Cavils aside, though, this is another triumph, following the Donmar's revival of McPherson's The Weir. The plot is full of startlingly inspired slews, from beer-bellied boogieing to terrifying, visceral insanity. The whole cast is corking and Hinds – looking like a seedy cowboy with a walrus moustache – is utterly wonderful and astonishingly touching. Surely one of the top performances of the year.

'The Cripple of Inishmaan' to 31 Aug; 'Relative Values' to 29 June and touring to 13 July; 'The Night Alive' to 27 July

The Amen Corner, James Baldwin’s tragicomic gem set in 1950s Harlem, is superbly revived at the National Theatre, London. A bad-boy husband, jazz-band son, and rebellious parishioners mean trouble for a zealous preacher-woman. Great acting and storming gospel choiring. If you missed Kneehigh’s Tristan and Yseult the first time, it’s back and touring, the lovers literally flying high at Truro’s Hall for Cornwall (Tue-Sat).

Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home