The Cripple of Inishmaan
Cripple of inishmaan mcdonagh book cover.jpg
Methuen cover
Written byMartin McDonagh
Characters"Cripple" Billy Claven
Kate Osbourne
Helen McCormick
Eileen Osbourne
Doctor McSharry
Bartley McCormick
Date premiered12 December 1996 (12 December 1996)
Place premieredRoyal National Theatre,
Original languageEnglish
Subjectdisability, cruelty, Hollywood
GenreBlack comedy
SettingInishmaan, 1934

The Cripple of Inishmaan is a dark comedy by Martin McDonagh who links the story to the real life filming of the documentary Man of Aran.

The play is set on the small Aran Islands community of Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) off the Western Coast of Ireland in 1934, where the inhabitants are excited to learn of a Hollywood film crew's arrival in neighbouring Inishmore (Inis Mór) to make a documentary about life on the islands. "Cripple" Billy Claven, eager to escape the gossip, poverty and boredom of Inishmaan, vies for a part in the film, and to everyone's surprise, the orphan and outcast gets his chance.... or so some believe.[1]


Inishmaan (shaded red) on a map of Ireland.
Inishmaan (shaded red) on a map of Ireland.

The Cripple of Inishmaan opened on 12 December 1996 at Royal National Theatre (Cottesloe) in London.[2] In April 1998, it opened Off-Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, again with Ruaidhri Conroy in the title role.[3][4] In the same year, Frederick Koehler played Billy in Los Angeles.

The play was produced Off-Broadway by the Atlantic Theater Company in conjunction with The Druid Theatre Company of Galway, Ireland, opening on 21 December 2008. Directed by Garry Hynes, the cast featured Kerry Condon, Andrew Connolly, Laurence Kinlan, Dearbhla Molloy, Aaron Monaghan, Marie Mullen, Patricia O'Connell, David Pearse and John C. Vennema.[5]

In 2013 the play returned to the Noël Coward Theatre in London's West End for a sold-out run starring Daniel Radcliffe as Cripple Billy and with Michael Grandage directing. In spring 2014, this production transferred to Broadway at the Cort Theatre for a limited run, with Opening Night on 20 April 2014.[6]


John Millington Synge on Inishmaan, 1898. In The Cripple of Inishmaan, McDonagh critiques the view of islanders given by Synge in plays like Riders to the Sea.[7]
John Millington Synge on Inishmaan, 1898. In The Cripple of Inishmaan, McDonagh critiques the view of islanders given by Synge in plays like Riders to the Sea.[7]

Martin McDonagh said of his play, "I hope someday they’ll be regarded as true Irish stories; I don’t think they are at this minute. It will take a long time for the baggage of me being a Londoner to be in the past."

In an interview, after the play was performed on Inishmaan in 2011, it was reported that "Mr. McDonagh used an unprintable euphemism to explain that it has never been his intent to take the measure of his fellow Irishmen cruelly".[8]


Awards and nominations

The 2014 Broadway production received six 2014 Tony Award nominations: Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Sarah Greene), Best Scenic Design of a Play (Christopher Oram), Best Lighting Design of a Play (Paule Constable), Best Sound Design of a Play (Alex Baranowski) and Best Direction of a Play (Michael Grandage).[9]