The Beauty queen of Leenane at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh


And so the rains came down.  In more ways than one.

Martin McDonagh’s black and brutal ‘rom-com’ opens on a rain-sodden Connemara on Ireland’s West Coast.

Another exquisitely designed Lyceum set (by designer Janet Bird) sits gloomily atop a hill in the midst of a broody squall.  We spy an elderly lady rocking back and forth in the chair that is her ‘den’, her place to scheme against the daughter that she wants to own and control till her dying day.

To say the Folans are a dysfunctional family would be something of an understatement.  Over the next two hours we see how each is out to upstage the other in acts of outrage, cruelty, both mental and physical, and sheer bloodymindedness.  Mother Mag (played exquisitely by native Irishwoman Nora Connolly) and daughter Maureen (another wonderful Irish invader, Cara Kelly) set about each other with a passion that defies description.  Which is most evil?  Which is most desperate?  It’s hard to tell at times as the story of their undoing unravels itself; inch by feckin’ inch.

McDonagh clearly had a way to go in the swearing stakes before he brought In Bruges to the world but he got himself into the zone here in this, his first award winning play.

It crackles with intensity and passion (not all of the romantic kind) as Mag attempts to woo her way out of her mother’s clutches with the almost virginal Pato Dooley, a manual worker from the village who has had to emigrate to Ingerland to find work.  His blossoming relationship with Maureen, who is most certainly a virgin, despite her 40 years, is the centerpiece of the play and Pato wins us over with his naive charm.  His younger, home based, workshy brother Ray provides many moments of comic genius, particularly when he spars with the equally workshy matriarch Maureen.

What differentiates McDonagh from many of his peers is the naturalism of his dialogue and the pace at which it zips along.  With a cast this good there is no chance of his subtle wordplays and verbal tricks missing the mark (even if, from the middle of the circle, the volume was on the low side).

This is a wonderful performance; quietly assured, darkly humorous, affecting and ultimately very moving.  It is a must see.

2 thoughts on “The Beauty queen of Leenane at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

  1. Er… daughter is Maureen and mother is Mag. But your review otherwise hits the spot perfectly. I too was thrilled, right from when the lights first went down and I “wondered what that noise was”, and found that it was real rain…………….

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