I attended the production at Tarvin Community Centre on the final Friday of the run. The cast played to a full house with one or two empty seats remaining empty, which were intriguingly marked unavailable.
Martin McDonagh’s play is set on an island off the west coast of Ireland. Inishmaan is inhabited by the isolated rural community that Billy (James Williams) lives in, though he is an outcast with the double physical disability of handicapped hand and leg. He is frequently the subject of often very cruel jibes and jokes from his fellow islanders.
Williams displays the disability extremely well and with accuracy but it is never overstated. Both the accent and the walk are delivered wonderfully well and he portrays the humanity of the character and the willingness that Crippled Billy has to overcome his adversity to a T.
Billy’s wish to better his lot focuses on him running across to a neighbouring island where a Hollywood film is being made.
This tale weaves its way along a tragic comic pathway from the Isle of Inishmaan to Hollywood. Throughout. Billy’s only source of succour and limited emotional support is found in his two guardian aunts, Eileen (Yvette Owen) and Kate (Marie Friend) who in their own well meaning way worry and dither over his wellbeing from beginning to end.
Owen plays Eileen brilliantly and delivers the characters numerous witty and comic lines with great style.
Friend examples the brilliance of McDonagh’s writing through displaying the glimmers of personal fallibility that all his characters have through her own characters reliance on speaking to “stones” whenever placed under pressure.
The sisters along with the whole cast are supported by the brilliantly authentic set of the village shop which they both run. The level of detail in this set alone was breathtakingly accurate and added an ambiance that pulled the audience directly back to a rural village store of the 1930s.
Slippy Helen (Grace Owen) was the star of the show for me. She played the hard-nosed, pugnacious Helen magnificently. The lines were delivered with precision and force and Helen’s mannerisms, swagger and brutish personality arrested the audience with every delivery. The sometimes quite simply evil Helen is the long term object of Billy’s affections but when Helen says: “Billy has no chance of being kissed, unless by a blind girl,” the chance of any such a relationship becoming a reality is seen as unlikely at best, particularly as Slippy Helen appears to have kissed every man on Inishmaan except Billy.
The comic pairing of Johnny Pateen Mike (Stuart McNeil) who is the village gossip, always at hand with a must hear news story and his ageing Mammy (Andrea Jones) works brilliantly.
Johnny Pateen Mike’s light hearted approach to life and gossip is neatly balanced with the seriousness with which he protects Billy from the “truth” behind Billy’s parents.
Bartley (Phillip Law), Babby Bobby (Andrew Yarwood) and Dr McSharry (Eamon Goodfellow) all delivered their own excellent personal performances to bring the plays other characters sharply in to focus and added the icing on the cake to complete what was an outstanding evening’s entertainment and a hugely enjoyable performance of a well produced and professional production.
The stars of the evening were the two young actors who played Billy and Helen. Let’s hope we see more of them in future Ashton Hayes productions.