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Daniel Radcliffe's Cripple of Inishmaan wows Broadway critics

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image captionRadcliffe (right) and co-star Sarah Greene were singled out for praise by reviewers in the US

Daniel Radcliffe has won five-star reviews from US critics for his "warm, sensitive" performance as a disabled orphan in The Cripple of Inishmaan.

Originally staged in London last year, the play is the actor's third Broadway outing, after Equus and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Writing in The New York Times, Ben Brantley called it "his most satisfying stage work to date".

Other reviews praised his "sympathetic" and "convincing" take on the lead role.

Set in 1934, the story follows disabled teenager Billy Claven, who lives with his "aunties" on the isle of Inishmaan off the west coast of Ireland.

Constantly mocked by the islanders, who call him Cripple Billy, he survives the tedium of daily life by reading books and staring at cows.

But the arrival of a Hollywood film-maker on a neighbouring island offers him a chance of escape to a glamorous new life.

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image captionThe original London cast has been retained for the show's Broadway transfer

"Daniel Radcliffe isn't here just to flex his charisma for fans," wrote Ben Brantley in the New York Times.

The former Harry Potter star "is entirely convincing as the boy who is regarded as least likely to succeed at pretty much anything in his God-forsaken rural Irish town," he added.

Radcliffe "plays Billy with a crafty mix of guile and vulnerability," wrote Thom Geier in Entertainment Weekly.

"His Irish accent is more than passable and while he doesn't stint from the role's physicality - curling his left hand and stiffening his left leg throughout the show - he refrains from milking the disability for easy sympathy."

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image captionPat Shortt (left) plays town blabbermouth Johnnypateenmike
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image captionThe play was originally staged at the Noel Coward Theatre last summer

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Chris Jones also noted the 24-year-old's sympathetic portrayal of physical disability.

He "delivers a Billy with one heck of a limp, a body-twisting contortion that, when in motion, is quite the theatrical thing to behold," he wrote.

"Radcliffe, a man of slight build, not only grabs onto this role physically, he understands that what interests us most about Billy is how he reacts when people add that 'crippled' to his name.

"Show too much pain and you're off base. Show no pain at all and everything is a wash of black farce.

"Radcliffe rightly lands slap in the middle - his Billy has learned to go along to get along, but he still winces with quiet pain, mostly inside."

"Radcliffe gives Billy a physical frailty and inner toughness combined with yearning that makes him a very sympathetic figure," agreed Associated Press critic Jennifer Farrar.

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image captionPlaywright Martin McDonagh (left) and director Michael Grandage (right) joined Radcliffe for the afterparty following the show's first night

Written by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) in 1996, The Cripple of Inishmaan had never been staged on Broadway before now.

Directed by former Donmar Warehouse director Michael Grandage, it retains the (mainly Irish) cast from last year's production at London's Noel Coward theatre.

The supporting players also won favourable reviews, with Sarah Greene singled out for her "blissfully fiery" portrayal of Helen McCormick, the object of Billy's affections.

"Walking dynamite," said the New York Daily News of her performance, while the Associated Press noted she played the role "with gleeful meanness and a perfect touch of insecurity".

"She also provides brittle, anti-Catholic comedy," wrote their critic, "with her casual references to the clergy, whose groping she's been violently fending off since childhood, at one point boasting, 'I ruptured a curate at age 6.'"

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image captionThe cast received a standing ovation at the end of the opening night performance
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image captionGreene ditched her red-head wig before attending the afterparty

"Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna are blissfully dim as Billy's loving maiden aunties," said Linda Warner in Newsday. "Pat Shortt is perfectly irritating as the town snoop [and] Sarah Greene captures both the terror of the town hellion and her appeal."

McDonagh "seems here to be both satirizing and celebrating the cliches about primitive Ireland and primal Hollywood, sending up the cruelties and seductions of the parallel universes as mutually exploitable pleasures," she added.

"How right to have a real movie star as its heart."

The Cripple of Inishmaan runs until 20 July, 2014 at the Cort Theater in New York.

Related Topics

  • Performing arts
  • Daniel Radcliffe
  • Theatre

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