A rich collection of characters

The Cripple of Inishmaan @ Sewell Barn, Norwich

The Cripple of Inishmaan @ Sewell Barn, Norwich

By CHRISTOPHER SMITH

St Patrick, they tell us, banished snakes from Ireland, but on Aran the Irish bulls still roam, clueless in labyrinths of words that range from laughter to tragedy with polysyllabic consequentiality and distinctly earthy directness.

Fair-haired and bright-eyed, but with his right foot trailing, Lee Peck takes the lead in Michelle Montague's production of Martin McDonagh's 1997 drama. The insistent rhythms of the jig make heartless comments on lameness.

News that Robert Flaherty is over from the States to make his cinema classic "Man of Aran" makes the basis of a story that gives the dramatist his chance to line up a gallery of Dickensian grotesques.

Kate Longland as the feckless Helen focuses on putting her inhibitions behind her, June Gentle's Kate knows just how to make us romp with laughter, and Jan Beavis never misses a chance of raising spirits.

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Not a whit outdone, the men are all generously over characterised. Noel Jones can never wait to spill the beans, Tom Watson is splendidly glum in word and grimace, and John Nicholson has a persuasive bedside manner, rarely needing his stethoscope to discover the truth. The accents are only approximate, but that doesn't really matter at all in a play that captures a certain image of the Irish on the Atlantic coast, living close to harsh nature and with their emotions never far below the surface.

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