Daniel Radcliffe is no stranger to theatergoers on either side of the Atlantic. The Broadway and West End vet has thrilled stage audiences as the troubled Alan Strang in Equus and the ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Never one to shy away from a creative challenge, Radcliffe is now tackling the title role in Martin McDonagh’s acclaimed 1996 play The Cripple of Inishmaan, which opens on June 18 and runs through August 31 at the Noel Coward Theatre. The production is part of the Michael Grandage Company’s West End season—five plays aimed at reaching a new generation. Recently, Broadway.com correspondent Susan Blackwell caught up with her favorite Messy Marvin via phone—their first public conversation since she tried to instruct him in the fine art of household cleanliness.
Susan: Hey, Daniel!
Dan: Hey, Susan!
Susan: So, you’re headed back to the West End, rehearsing The Cripple of Inishmaan, preparing for a 12-week limited engagement as part of The Grandage Season. Here’s the question on everybody’s mind: Are you still sorting your own laundry these days?
Dan: [laughing] Yes, that is what the world wants to know!
Susan: I know!
Dan: The truth is, I haven’t gotten much better at that.
Susan: Oh, Daniel.
Dan: I’ve gotten slightly better. But I think that the residual effect of the day we spent together was definitely less than you intended.
Susan: [laughing] Remember that cashmere sweater of yours that you threw into the laundry hamper—the one that got shrunk in the wash by accident?
Dan: I do! I’m wearing a T-shirt today that got shrunk by accident. It’s actually much better now.
Susan: My god, man! When will you learn?
Dan: I know.
Susan: It’s a good thing you’re small, though. You at least have a better shot at fitting into it.
Dan: I fit into everything I shrink, in fact.
Susan: Well, your shrunken sweater ended up at my house, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I felt bad getting rid of it, but who really needs a tiny, boiled sweater. You’ll be pleased to know that I used it for crafts. I stitched up the openings, stuffed it and made a little cashmere Dan pillow out of it. It matches my decor perfectly!
Susan: Yes! So thank you for being laundry impaired, because I got a pillow out of the deal.
Dan: That’s great!
Susan: Right!? For so long, I was like, ‘What the F am I going to do with this tiny sweater?’
Dan: You could’ve just gone with my option and worn it as a hat, and started a new trend of hats with arms.
Susan: Wait—I’m texting you a picture of it right now.
When we get off the phone, you have to text me back a picture you have on your phone. And no pressure, but it will be the photo that accompanies this article. But no pressure.
Susan: Yes! Now, then. Soon, I’m coming to see your play, The Cripple of Inishmaan. What should I expect?
Dan: You should expect to laugh a great deal. It’s incredibly funny. The whole company is fantastic. The show is so bloody funny and so politically incorrect, but also a super-smart comedy. So, you’re going to laugh and laugh and laugh, and then, at the very end, we’re going to rip your heart out.
Susan: Martin McDonagh writes some dark, funny shit.
Dan: Yes, he does! We learned early on--there was one scene in the play that features a very drastic act of violence. And in the script, the stage direction says the scene goes to black before we actually see the act. But we turned around to Martin and said, "If we could do that violence effectively, would you prefer to see it?" And he nodded very emphatically! If you present Martin with two options, and one of them involves a good deal more blood and gore, he will go with that one.
Susan: So, are you showing the act?
Dan: We are, yeah!
Susan: Oooh! I’m excited! And nervous!
Dan: The thing is, this is actually one of Martin’s less violent plays. And yet, for two and a half hours, my character gets beaten up on stage, basically.
Susan: The play is set in Inishmaan. Where the F is that? You’re good at geography right?
Susan: Let's play an association game: Inishmaan is to Ireland, as "blank" is the to United States.
Dan: Oooh—that’s a good question! Inishmaan is to Irelend as…hmmm…are there any island systems just off the coast of America that no one really goes to? I mean, it’s in the sea, it’s historically very poor, and the Aran islands are quite a patriarchal society. I suppose maybe you could say that the Aran Islands are to Ireland, as...I don’t know...Hawaii is to America?
Dan: But trust me...
Both: This is not Hawaii!
Susan: You’re playing the character known as Cripple Billy. How are you preparing for this role physically?
Dan: Well, it’s never actually pinned down in the play what exactly the matter is with Billy. He’s introduced in the first scene: "Billy enters, one arm and leg crippled, shuffling." And then you hear in the play that it was a disability that was visible from birth. But really, you’re not given a huge amount of information.
Susan: So you’re piecing together clues!
Dan: Yes! So I’ve decided, based on what information you do get from the play, that cerebral palsy was a viable option for what Billy could have had. And so I’ve been working with a coach who has very mild cerebral palsy herself. And she was able to explain the mechanics of the condition to me, as well as teaching me how to walk and pick things up and move around, as if I’m heavily disabled on one side. It’s one of the odder skills I’ve had to learn. It has very few practical applications, besides doing a play.
Dan: There was one moment that was quite funny, actually. One night, I was walking to the shop around the corner from my house to get some food, and I thought, "There’s no one around—I’ll just walk like I’m Billy for a while." So, I put my hood up so no one would notice me, and I started walking down the road in Billy’s walk, and just as I get to the corner, and I’m about to go into the shop, I notice that a woman is behind me. And in my head I’m going, "Well, I can’t just stop and suddenly break into a normal walk as I walk into the shop, so I’m just going to wait for her to pass me before I go in." Otherwise, she’ll think, "Who's that weirdo, pretending to be disabled?" Then she went into the shop that I was headed into, so I had to wait for her to come out so that I could resume my normal walk and go into the shop. Yeah—so—that was my experience preparing for this part!
Susan: We call that "Caught in a Lie." You were caught in a lie, Dan.
Dan: I was caught in a lie!
Susan: When my friends and I were freshman acting majors in college, we used to go to the mall and speak in fake British accents, and occasionally, you would get trapped in a conversation or situation and you’d have to sustain it way longer than you anticipated.
Dan: I had a friend who went on holiday alone once, and she decided to make up a whole story about herself and her life, ‘cause wouldn’t that be fun? And she ended up, as this character, making friends with a group of people who just absolutely loved her. Then one of them was in her city, and they called her and said, "Hey, we have to meet up!" And she ended up saying to them, "I’ve got something to tell you…" She had put on a Southern accent, and in the conversation, as she was telling them, she started off with the Southern accent, and then as soon as she told them the news, she dropped it, like some big reveal!
Susan: That sounds like the climax of Tootsie! She was in way too deep!
Dan: She was in WAY too deep.
Susan: Good for her for coming clean. I would have just maintained it until my death. That’s what you should have done at the store.
Dan: Yeah, just carried on forever.
Susan: So, you were last in the West End with Equus, back in 2007. How is this outing different for you? Besides 100% more pants.
Dan: [laughing] I mean, Equus had some funny moments in it, but it was not a comedy. This absolutely is a comedy, so it’s nice making people laugh. And frankly, to be able to perform one of Martin’s scripts--we’re all in the rehearsal room looking at each other, saying, "How lucky are we?" There are so many people who would cut off their left arm to do The Cripple of Inishmaan—no pun intended.
Susan Is there any chance the show might come to Broadway?
Dan: It’s completely out of my hands, really. I obviously love working on Broadway, so it would be a thrill to take it there, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Susan: So, if people want to see it, they need to get over to London and see it this summer!
Susan: You know, Billy’s an orphan. You play a lot of orphans. And you're a shortie. Any chance if you can’t come back in Cripple, that you'd come back to Broadway to star in Annie?
Susan: Great! It’s settled then! Thank you, Dan Radcliffe. I’ll be seeing you in a few weeks in The Cripple of Inishmaan! Don’t be nervous!
Dan: And I’ll send you that photo!