In December 1996, Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan premiered at the Royal National Theatre in London. Born to Irish parents but raised in London, McDonagh
aspired to create a tale that would capture a sense of true Irishness, but was sceptical
of its reception in Ireland due to his dual citizenship.
For those unfamiliar with his name, McDonagh has written several acclaimed plays, including two trilogies; he has been nominated for Tony Awards four times, holds
three Laurence Olivier Awards, and has also been recognized for his work in the film industry for crime sagas such as In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
As part of On The Rocks, Mermaids bring to the stage the opening chapter of his “Aran
Islands” trilogy. The Cripple of Inishmaan follows “Cripple” Billy Claven and the inhabitants
of Inishmaan, whose peaceful lives are suddenly disturbed by the arrival of a Hollywood film crew. Set in the 1930s in the Aran Islands by the Western Coast of Ireland, the black comedy explores how the invasion of the outside world affects a secluded community.
The crew and cast of the show have teamed up with live musicians from Folk and Trad society and set themselves the challenge of combining live music with the performance
of a talented cast. McDonagh is (in)famous for experimenting with the boundaries of what can and cannot be said, and Mermaids are not watering it down: “People should come expecting to be absolutely appalled at some of the dialogue in the show, but crying with laughter at the same time.” The set is promised to be eye-catching – the production admittedly pushed the crew’s logistical abilities to the limit, helping them learn “not to sweat the small stuff ”. 1930s’ Ireland will be recreated on the big space off ered by the St.Age, and will benefi t from various types and methods of lighting and sound. The crew shared a story from behind the scenes: “One of the most memorable moments was when [cast member Sophia Anderson] brought her bearded dragon Yakul to rehearsals because at fi rst, no one noticed him wrapped in her scarf. Then, once we had noticed him and the shock had died down, he continued to crawl around our rural Irish set, which was quite the oxymoron.”
As a final question, the crew were asked to describe their show in three words. The reply
was “Outrageous, morbid, human.” These three are undeniably characteristic of most of
McDonagh’s plays, and bringing it to On The Rocks is an exciting opportunity to showcase
what St Andrews can add to them. Catch the show on 13 and 14 April at the St.Age, tickets are available on the Byre website.