Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Cripple of Inishmaan (Martin McDonagh)


WAAPA  Roundhouse Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn


This production is as refreshing as a cold shower on a hot day.


A cast of 3rd-year WAAPA acting students embraced Mc Donagh’s play with relish.


Director Patrick Sutton has done wonders in securing memorable responses from his youthful cast – and while lilting accents did not always sound entirely convincing, the actors breathed often engagingly raucous life into the play.cripple photo stitch


In a nutshell, the story revolves around the eponymous hero – Billy Claven (played with very real understanding of the role by Felix Johnson) – who is seriously handicapped, lurching pitifully about the stage. He comes across as a gentle, likeable soul who, notwithstanding his disability and perhaps intellectual limitations, goes through life with a touching grace. His idea of a good time is to watch cows in the fields. To the surprise – and chagrin – of some of the townsfolk, Billy auditions successfully for a projected cinematic role. He is also doted on by two ageing spinsters who run a very modestly stocked general store.


Rushing about the stage tirelessly and loudly is Michael Abercrombie who seems positively to delight in playing the garrulous gossip Johnnypateenmike. This blabbermouth is the perfect foil to Rose Riley’s Mammy O’Dougal, Johnny’s nonagenarian, whiskey-sodden, bedridden mother whose awesome alcohol intake would surely kill off lesser mortals. Her cackles and astonishing imbibing brought the house down.


Cecilia Peters does wonders as Helen McCormick, altogether persuasive in conveying the character’s startling lack of grace and more than a hint of rebellious violence.

And there’s a touch of tragedy to Oscar Harris’ Babbybobby, whose wife has died of TB.


Cripple Stephen HeathThere’s not a dull moment in this engaging and often touching romp. Not the least of the pleasures of this production is the quality of its ensemble, the interplay of the protagonists; it lifts the performance well above the ordinary.


Simeon Brudenell’s lighting design is consistently effective.

Keyed-Up series



Raymond Yong (piano)

Callaway Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Few composers are as demanding on musicians as Mozart. The tiniest misjudgement in passagework, the smallest lapse in clarity can prove disastrous. Happily, Raymond Yong succeeded in steering the clearest and most musicianly way through the solo part of Mozart’s Concerto in A, K414 ensuring, seemingly effortlessly, that the peak of the afternoon lay securely in the keeping of the Salzburg master.


It was a rarely encountered version of the work, with the orchestra here replaced by a string quartet, an alternative mooted by Mozart himself. Here, with his customary distinction, Paul Wright led a quartet made up of Isabel Hede (violin), Jared Yap (viola) and Sophie Parkinson-Stewart (cello).


If this had been Yong’s only contribution to the afternoon, it would have been an altogether fulfilling experience, such were the precision, fluency and expressive insights brought to bear on the score. Raymond Yong


Later, we heard Liszt’s massive Sonata in B minor, a work which is

no-man’s-land to all but the very few pianists able to meet its formidable challenges, not least of which is substantial staying power to maintain momentum through its frequently gruelling episodes. In its half-hour course, Liszt’s work poses immense physical and stylistic challenges that can test the mettle of the most experienced of pianists. From every standpoint, however, Yong was clearly in control. It was an heroic effort, crowned with success in a way that augurs well for a solo career of distinction. There was no hint of strain at all, despite the massive demands the sonata makes on the performer.


A bracket of the first eight of Chopin’s 24 Preludes opus 28 was less uniformly persuasive. The first, in C, barely hinted at the composer’s requirement that it be played agitato. No 5 in D sounded rather bland. But the famous Prelude in E minor was a beautifully considered offering, an essay in melancholy. The Prelude in F sharp minor, too, could hardly have been bettered, its fiercely demanding, very rapid figurations in the right hand despatched with utmost agility and accuracy.


As encore, Yong played Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat, its serenity a perfect foil to the passionate grandeur of the Liszt Sonata.