Not even a technical glitch with the house lights… could prevent Daniel Radcliffe from posting a confident and deeply affecting First Night performance as Martin McDonagh's crippled Billy… Perhaps Radcliffe flies a little too close to the mock sentimental heart of the drama, and he seems a little too old for a 17 year-old (though he's only 23). But he's created a memorable physical portrait of the limping reject, with a withered arm Richard Crookback might envy, and a fine ear for McDonagh's vicious rhythms and rubatos… Political incorrectness runs riot in McDonagh. He's sandbagged you with the nonsense of the opposite before you regain breath from laughing… Grandage's production is hilariously inauthentic in all the right ways, cleverly mounted on Christopher Oram's revolving wall of grey bricks and beautifully lit by Paule Constable...
…Radcliffe makes the role his own, mixing vulnerability and a melancholy charm. He spends a lot of his time sitting pensively, as if lost in his own intensity… While Radcliffe is the production's big draw, there's a strong sense of ensemble… Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Craigie have an ideal chemistry as Billy's adopted aunts. Pat Shortt's Johnnypateenmike is a gloriously ghastly fund of anecdotes and barbed remarks... McDonagh is a writer with a gift for scorching entertainment… Here he's not at his most savage, but there is a nice blend of whimsy and absurdity… And Radcliffe's desire to challenge himself is admirable, as is his refusal to milk his part and instead deliver a performance of moving modesty.
…Daniel Radcliffe… proves, as he did in Equus, that he is a fine stage actor with a gift for playing social outsiders… It's a knowing play but one which Radcliffe invests with a sense of real feeling… Radcliffe also has the precious gift, vital in a play full of narrative surprises, of seeming artful and vulnerable at the same time… Grandage's strong production is graced by an evocative stone-wall set by Christopher Oram and boasts good performances from Sarah Greene as the pugnacious Helen, Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna as Billy's maidenly caretakers and June Watson as a grumpily boozy nonagenarian… in the end, the evening belongs to Radcliffe, who has successfully escaped from the Potter's wheel.
…Radcliffe brings a touching stoicism and simplicity to his performance as Cripple Billy, all the more moving because it is so understated. There are shafts of wry humour amidst his bravely borne suffering, but I increasingly resented the way in which McDonagh keeps building up the audience's hopes for the character only to knock them down for theatrical effect… it has to be admitted that the piece is theatrically effective, outstandingly acted and often disgracefully funny. Sarah Greene is superbly entertaining as the village wild girl… Conor MacNeill also gives a comic gem of a performance as her persecuted younger brother, while Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Craigie make a delightful double act as Billy's eccentric aunts. I just wish the play itself wasn't such a thoroughly nasty piece of work.
…Radcliffe may not have the most convincing Irish accent in Grandage's vividly quirky ensemble and there may be folk who wish that he brought a more flayed, heart-snagging physicality to the half-withered Billy's effortful movements. But, to my mind, Radcliffe's honest, sensitive, unshowy performance, by admirably refusing to milk the part for pathos, gives you clear, touching access to the finer-grained spirit that sets the character apart from this bored, back-biting world… Grandage's assured production skilfully disguises the predictable unpredictability of the plot twists. His cast give the frustrations of the stock-type islanders a sharp comic vigour – especially Sarah Greene as Helen… Radcliffe comes across as the genuine article in the midst of all these deliberate authenticities. But, for my taste, McDonagh's play wants too much to have its soda bread and eat it.
…Radcliffe gives Billy a still, melancholy intensity and resolve… The Irish urge to escape a dead-end Paradise burns in the very jerking of his limbs, and drives McDonagh's emotionally cunning plot and themes of romanticism punctured, trapped rurality and the power of stories true or false. It is a perfect ensemble piece: within the revolving stone worlds of Christopher Oram's design each character has its own rhythm and eloquence, absurdity and dignity. Pat Shortt is tremendous as Johnnypateenmike… The two aunts, Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna, are the most perfect double-act to command a London stage in years… And as ever in McDonagh, a jagged, violent darkness feeds the comedy, and laughter glistens in the deepest despair. In its final moments the see-saw of hope and tragedy moves so fast you gasp.
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