An ensemble cast including Ian O’Reilly (Moone Boy), Jamie-Lee O’Donnell (Derry Girls), Phelim Drew (My Left Foot) and Rosaleen Linehan (The Butcher Boy) will star in the Gaiety Theatre’s upcoming production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan.
Directed by frequent McDonagh collaborator Andrew Flynn – who recently worked on acclaimed productions of the writer’s other works A Skull in Connemara and The Pillowman, – the play will run from January 25 to March 9. While the Gaiety have a long history of co-producing plays, this is the first the theatre will produce on their own.
“We’re incredibly excited for the new production of this Irish modern classic from Martin McDonagh, an award-winning screenwriter, playwright and director,” said Caroline Downey, managing director of the theatre, at the cast announcement. “He’s one of my favourite writers of all time and The Cripple of Inishmaan is one of my favourite plays he has written.”
McDonagh began his career as a playwright with a series of plays set in and around Galway including The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996), The Lonesome West (1997) and The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001). Having earned acclaim for his Irish work, he transitioned into screenwriting and directing with short film Six Shooter (2004) which picked up an Academy Award.
Since then, McDonagh directed movies In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012). His latest Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) picked up many awards including Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Screenplay at this year’s Golden Globes. The writer still works in theatre also. His most recent plays Hangmen (2015) and A Very Very Very Dark Matter (2018) premiered in London, while 2011’s A Behanding in Spokane opened on Broadway.
Speaking about his relationship with the playwright, Flynn said: “I was only an assistant stage manager when I met Martin first. At that point, he was only a struggling writer. Since he’s exploded in both the film and stage industry so it’s an honour to be asked to direct one of my favourite plays.”
The Cripple of Inishmaan (1997) is set on the Aran Islands in 1930s, where the inhabitants are excited to learn of a Hollywood film crew’s arrival to make a documentary. “Cripple” Billy Claven, eager to escape the gossip, poverty and boredom of his village, vies for a part in the film, and to everyone’s surprise, the orphan and outcast gets his chance…. or so some believe.
Newcomer Ruairi Heading will star as Billy. Director Andrew Flynn was effusive in his praise for his leading man: “He came into an audition and he just lit the room up. He’s a fantastic actor. He will be a huge star.”
Flynn continued stating: “The centre piece for me of any production is the actors. They are the ones that really do bring life and air into these great words. We’ve gathered a fantastic ensemble.”
Joining Heading is Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, star of Derry Girls, as Helen, a feisty girl for whom Billy has a crush. “When Martin writes female characters my God he makes them memorable and we got a gem to play her,” said Flynn. This year, Frances McDormand won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Three Billboards…
Norma Sheahan and Ian O’Reilly of Moone Boy fame will also star in the show as Eileen and Bartley, joined by acclaimed theatre actors Catherine Walsh, Rosaleen Linehan and John Olohan. Sean Fox (Taken Down) and Phelim Drew round out the cast.
Flynn also revealed that on the play 32 Irish theatre makers will be employed: “At a time when there seems to be less productions happening nationally and in Dublin, that’s great for actors, directors and designers.” Speaking about the set design, the director stated: “The set is in construction. It’s a very different take on this play. I’m confident it will bring new life into Martin’s words.”
The actors will begin rehearsals on the play in a few weeks: “I’ve been working on this since May,” said Flynn. “I’m like a child in a sweet shop now because we’re going into rehearsal and that’s where I love to be.
Speaking about the play, Downey said she hoped The Cripple of Inishmaan production would be the first in a “long collaboration” between Flynn, McDonagh and the theatre.
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