The Beauty Queen of Leenane - Review

Martin McDonagh’s play had the doomed inevitability of a Greek tragedy but was counterbalanced with generous helpings of comedy.

Maureen, a plain, lonely middle aged woman trapped in an isolated Irish household and left to care for her elderly mother, her two sisters having escaped through marriage.

The relationship is the distaff version of Steptoe and Son with Mag, the selfish mother manipulating her daughter and thwarting her only hope of love and happiness. Maureen in turn detests her mother and the drudgery that she is subjected to.

The atmosphere between the couple seethed with tension broken by some splendidly comic battles as each taunted the other.

The arrival of Pato Dooley, back from England for a visit, promises an escape for Maureen but in fact proves to be the catalyst that sets off a train of events with tragic consequences.

Pat Boxall directed with great sensitivity and captured well the many changing moods that the text called for. She was helped by the atmospheric music created by Edward Gamper.

The roles of two protagonists provided two meaty roles that offered a challenge to each actor – both performances were sublime.

Janet Hewlett-Davies was truly horrendous yet, at the same time, mesmeric as the mother. There were times when her awfulness made this member of the audience want to get up and hit her! She gave a masterful performance with facial expression that spoke volumes - the ever watchful eyes, the sly glances and the pouting mouth were a joy to watch.

Equally impressive was Maggie Clune as Maureen - again a great demonstration of effortless acting with the face telling all. It was a heart breaking portrayal that captured the character’s loneliness and sexual frustration and was full of great poignancy. This sensitivity made her outbursts of anger and violence even more shocking. Not having seen Maggie’s work before, this introduction leads me to hope that it will not be long before she appears at NVT again.

Tim Blissett’s Pato was a creature of bluffness that hid a shy and tender man and was beautifully realised. His courtship of Maureen, and particularly the letter scene, was most moving.

Completing the cast was Paul Wilson as Pato’s brother, Ray. He depicted well the simplicity of the character to comic effect but, sadly, had a tendency to speak too fast at times.

In fact, lack of clarity was something that all the cast suffered from. On a few occasions the softness of voice together with the Irish accent meant that small amounts of dialogue were missed.

This apart the production matched the benchmark set at the beginning of the season.

Having moaned about the paucity of the set for the previous production I must congratulate those responsible for creating such a realistic setting this time.


Barrie Jerram
12 April 2006