Playing Irish: The Guild Hall presents The Cripple of Inishmaan Nov. 21 to Dec. 7

The Guild is putting on one final show before the New Year: The Cripple of Inishmaan, by the respected Irish playwright Martin McDonagh.

The comedy takes place in 1930’s Ireland, and is based on the true story of Hollywood filmmaker Robert Flaherty, who traveled to the island of Inishmore to film the movie Man of Aran. The movie aimed to document the difficult lives people lived on the small islands off the west coast of Ireland, and is now available for viewing on Youtube.

In The Cripple of Inishmaan, word gets out that the movie is being filmed on the next island over, and young Cripple Billy, played by Roy Neilson, decides he must make it into the film.

The Irish-ness is strong in this one, but director Brian Cochrane believes Canadian audiences will get it.

“I think as Canadians we relate to the Irish a lot,” he says. “In the sense of the feeling of isolation and a sort of wrestling between the bigger world — America or wherever — and a desire to leave your small pond and go there, maybe not realizing how good you have it at home.”

This will be Cochrane’s first time directing one of McDonagh’s plays, though he has been a fan of his work for years.

“I’ve read his entire catalogue of plays,” Cochrane says. “For McDonagh, his style of comedy — his cruel style of comedy — is pretty unique to him.

“There’s a different attitude toward language which I think sets Irish work apart. Irish playwrights tend to capture a love of language and the way people talk to each other. There’s a lot more wordplay that’s sort of culturally embedded. They have a bigger vocabulary of slang and nicknames, and just a general love of language that has developed from an oral tradition. They’ve been speaking this language so much longer than anyone’s known how to read or write it. I’m not saying it makes it better than Canadian plays, but it’s certainly something that stands out.”

The Irish also tend to be well known for their love of the drink, which is also highlighted by McDonagh.

“There’s a lot of talk of poteen which is potato whisky, or Irish moonshine,” says Cochrane. “There’s a 90-year-old lady who really likes to knock it back.”

Alongside its usual wine selection, The Guild will be serving Irish whisky at the bar so as to not leave the audience feeling left out.

The stage will feature a lot of faces, nine to be exact, but many of them will be familiar to audiences, including Mary Sloan and Bronwyn Jones as Billy’s Aunties Eileen and Kate; Charlotte Courage as Slippy Helen; Mike Ivens as Johnny Pateen; and Dorothy Martin as Mammy, Johnny Pateen’s 90-year-old, foul-mouthed, alcoholic mother.

“It’s a great ensemble piece, a great actor showcase,” Cochrane says. “You… don’t often get a play with such strong roles for women, but McDonagh writes women’s roles very well so all four of the ladies in this have great material to play with.”

The Cripple of Inishmaan plays at The Guild Hall theatre from Nov. 21 to Dec. 7 on Wednesdays through Saturdays. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Whitehorse Motors and all shows start at 8 p.m.

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