Daniel Radcliffe's 'The Cripple of Inishmaan' on Broadway Is Just Like 'Harry Potter'
Last night, I snagged my opera glasses and donned my dressiest combat boots for a night out on Broadway, to see Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan , currently starring Daniel Radcliffe. To be honest, I was primarily there for the expert dark comedy stylings of my favorite playwright (he wrote the movies In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, as well as the play The Pillowman, which you should all drop everything and go read immediately), but clearly I was tickled at the thought of seeing The Boy Who Lived in the flesh. Whatever Radcliffeian excitement I may have harbored, however, it paled drastically in comparison to the rest of the audience, which in my estimation was roughly 70% females between the ages of 14–24, furtively discussing how best to get a spot by the stage door after the show. At first, I was indignant — How dare they turn this great play into mere Harry Potter rehash?! — but then I realized that I, too, spent a good chunk of intermission mulling over the parallels between Radcliffe's character, the titular "Cripple Billy," and his most iconic role. Because there were a lot.
The play, which is set on the small Irish island of Inishmaan in the 1930s, tells the story of Billy (AKA, D-Rad), a disabled orphan who is essentially the town laughingstock, and his quest to get himself cast in a documentary film shooting nearby, so that he can get whisked away and become an American movie star. In short, it's basically an amped-up version of Harry's "cupboard under the stairs" years, in which the big fancy event that promises to whisk him away is Hollywood instead of Hogwarts — which also presents an interesting and somewhat meta dimension. There's even (not to spoil things too much) a similar trajectory regarding death and fate, a plucky redheaded love interest. I mean, of course once you start looking for them, the parallels are everywhere — an annoying newshawk who's positively Rita Skeeter-esque, and even the accompanying music was all kinds of plink-y — but those are, of course, ultimately incidental. The real question is why Radcliffe, who constantly expresses a desire to distance himself from the Potter name, would choose to play a character so similar to it.
Sure, his other stage ventures were more divergent, but we all know that the full frontal of Equus was just his "Oops I Did It Again" red vinyl bodysuit — a cue to his former fanbase that he was all grown up and ready to get down. Then, of course, there was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, but I'm going to chalk that one up to showcasing his musical talents, another decidedly non-Harry move. And, now that he's had his coming-out party and can settle into the work of just Being a Stage Actor, he's gone back to his persecuted-orphan roots.
Perhaps it's because he finds the role relatable: He did grow up on that film set, after all; I'm sure the character of Harry is entwined with his own, to the point that seeing himself in any particular part must also mean seeing a bit of HP. And for this role specifically, to indulge a little in that meta narrative, I'm sure that his child actor status makes him especially drawn to Billy's half-cynical half-desperate faith in the transformative powers of Hollywood.
Of course, to truly know whether or not Radcliffe is doomed to his own bit of history repeating, we'll all just have to wait and see what he chooses to be in next. Personally, I now really want to see him in a red vinyl bodysuit, but maybe that's just me.