Leenane’s Beauty Queen at the Lyric Hammersmith Theater

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Ingrid Craigie, Orla Fitzgerald in LEENANE’S QUEEN OF BEAUTY. Photo Helen Maybanks.

Martin McDonagh’s 1996 play “Leenane’s beauty queen having won an Olivier and a Tony for Play OF The Year and Best Play respectively, has become a theater classic and its rebirth at Lyric Hammersmith could not be more timely with its themes of loneliness, isolation, mental health issues and primary care.

Set in a filthy, neglected and dilapidated house on a hill in the Irish village of Leenane in Connemara, when the room opens we see Meg, 70, sitting in her rocking chair, keeping warm by the stove as it’s a dark, windswept night outside. She is soon joined by her daughter Maureen who is her babysitter and judging from the early exchanges, the couple who are stuck with each other in semi-isolation, don’t get along, constantly bickering over each other. details of life, like if Meg’s Complan drink is too lumpy or if she has eaten her porridge. Maureen is also disgusted by Meg’s daily habit of dumping her full potty into the sink. At times the two look like a gender-swapped Albert and Harold Steptoe as they argue and moan at each other with the child desperate to run away but knowing deep down that as long as their parent is alive , they are trapped in a vicious spiral of love and hate.

Soon, young Ray Dooley arrives with an invitation for Maureen to attend a farewell party for Ray’s uncle returning to Boston. Meg doesn’t want Maureen to leave the house and destroy the piece of paper with the details but Maureen finds out anyway and goes to the party where she meets Ray’s older brother Pato, which sets off a chain of events that would destroy everyone. hit.

Leenane’s beauty queen is a dark and gloomy writing which is typical of McDonagh’s work and he went on to write two other works in the Léenane Trilogy, Hanged and A very, very dark material none of which are exactly a barrel of laughs although they contain moments of humor, just like The beauty queen of Leanane. The characters are superbly drawn with lots of layers and you will understand why they act the way they do. Ingrid Craigie is superb as a controlling and manipulative Meg.

Orla Fitzgerald who plays Maureen gets audience sympathy in the first act, but as the story evolves we realize that there is a lot going on below the surface and that she isn’t all of it. as it seems. Adam Best plays Pato Dooley whom Maureen brings back from the party to spend the night with her. His monologue at the start of act two is beautifully played and he brings real pathos and humanity to it. Kwaku Fortune plays Pato’s younger brother, Ray, but sometimes he speaks too fast which, along with his thick Irish brogue, makes it hard to hear what he is saying. Since he’s at the heart of the plot, that’s a bit of a problem; the character needs a lot of nervous energy but Fortune’s delivery was just a little too frantic.

Rachel O’Riordan’s directing is perfect, giving the actors space to breathe with silences and pauses that also give the audience a respite from the tension. The set is a triumph of the Good Teeth Theater, a new design team graduating from UAL Wimbledon College of Art and should be commended for their work. There is also some scary horror movie style music from Anna Clock which also made the excellent sound design.

Leenane’s beauty queen is not a comfortable night at the theater – McDonagh is not comfortable – but it is a wonderfully constructed and beautifully written play. There’s a big moment in act two that’s telegraphed – although there were a few hiccups from some viewers so it might not have been that obvious – but it’s followed by a few shocking moments that have startled the public and were certainly not telegraphed. Leenane’s beauty queen is McDonagh at his best and performances are of the highest quality from some of Ireland’s best actors. It might not be a comfortable play, but at the moment the world isn’t a very comfortable place.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

In the mountains of Connemara, County Galway, Maureen Folan – a simple, lonely woman linked to her manipulative and aging mother, Mag – comes to life with her first and perhaps last prospect of a new life. But Mag has other ideas; and his intervention sets in motion a series of events that leads inexorably to the breathtaking conclusion of the play.

With: Adam Best as Pato ‘Ingrid Craigie as Mag’ Orla Fitzgerald as Maureen, and Kwaku Fortune as Ray.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is directed by Rachel O’Riordan, designed by Good Teeth Theater (Dumb Waiter – Hampstead; The Winter’s Tale – Globe), lighting design by Kevin Treacy (A Doll’s House – Lyric; Killology – Royal Court) , music and sound design by Anna Clock (Crave – CFT; Inside – Orange Tree), fight direction by Kev McCurdy (Les Misérables – Sondheim & UK Tour; Cendrillon – Gillian Lynne Theater), and cast by Sam Stevenson (BBC’s Emma; Home I ‘m Chéri – NT).

A Lyric Hammersmith Theater and Chichester Festival Theater co-production
Leenane’s beauty queen
By Martin McDonagh


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