Friday, 30 May 2014

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, May 29, 2014 ****

Written by Martin McDonagh
Part 1 of The Leenane Trilogy, by Kin Collective
At fortyfivedownstairs, until June 1, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Part Two: A Skull In Connemara: June 4-7
Part Three: The Lonesome West:  Wed June 11-14
The Leenane Trilogy (all 3 plays) on Sundays June 1, 8 & 15 at 1pm-7pm

Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday May 30. Probably later in print. KH
L-R: Dylan Watson, Linc Hasler, Michala Banas, Noni Hazlehurst

Martin McDonagh’s grim comic-tragedy, The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, seethes with the suppressed rage between a controlling mother and her hapless, middle-aged daughter. 

In their isolated, dilapidated cottage in Connemara on the windswept, west coast of Ireland, Mag (Noni Hazlehurst) and Maureen (Michala Banas) live out their miserable, repetitive daily life of sniping, cruelty and mutual loathing.

Hazlehurst totally inhabits the manipulative, whining and contrary old harridan, Mag, delivering a superbly nuanced performance that makes us laugh and wince at Mag’s sneering secretiveness and shameless cruelty.

She is compelling as she slumps resentfully in her scruffy chair, sniffing and snooping into Maureen’s business or stumping painfully around her drab and forlorn kitchen domain (design by Casey-Scott Corless).

Banas is assured and convincing as Mag’s peculiar, virginal, spinster daughter, Maureen, gaining our sympathy when her mother mistreats her, our delight when Pato (Linc Hasler) dubs her the Beauty Queen of Leenane, and our disapproval at her brutal taunting of Mag.

Their dysfunctional relationship is thrown into high relief when well meaning but lonely Pato, played with a charming, awkward earnestness by Hasler, witnesses their relentless bickering, and when Dylan Watson as Ray arrives, vibrating with edgy, youthful energy.

Director, Declan Eames, deftly focuses on characters and relationships, maintaining the dramatic tension, keeping the dialogue swift and witty, the delivery wry, and maintaining the quirks of the Connemara dialect and accent.

His production alternates from uproariously funny to excruciatingly tense or joylessly punishing – but that is the style of McDonagh’s writing for both stage and screen.

This play is unsentimental and avoids romanticising the Irish character or its wild, green landscape, leaving the audience with the unnerving feeling that such bleak lives and repressed violence continue long after lights out.

Kate Herbert

Michala Banas, Noni Hazlehurst, Chris Bunworth, Marg Downey, Mark Diaco, James O’Connell
Pics by John Lloyd Fillingham

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