THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
by Martin McDonagh.
Curve 60 Rutland Street LE1 1SB To 9 November.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 5 Nov (+ Touch Tour 6.15pm, 9 Nov 2.30pm (+Touch Tour 1pm).
BSL Signed 30 Nov.
Captioned 2 Nov 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 30 Oct.
TICKETS: 0116 242 3595.
then Mercury Theatre Balkerne Gate CO1 1PT 13-23 November 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01206 573948.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 October.
Forceful production strikes the loud notes.
Often a director lures us gently with an apparent calm at the start of Martin McDonagh’s first Leenane play, then undermines post-J M Synge expectations of Irish rural drama and another episode of Playboy of the Western World, with Irish stew replaced by Complan and Kimberley biscuits (a creamy Irish icon of varying consistency) before building to ‘the McDonagh moment’.
There’s one in each of his plays, horror and humour suddenly, simultaneously, surprising the audience. This play actually has two. And they make a mark, even though Paul Kerryson goes full-force from the start, with a loud burst of Irish folk-rock and a stage downpour that sets the climate, in a production where there’s none of the rolling landscape that could enchant the visitor but is hard-work for those living off it, and boredom incarnate for lively young Ray Dooley.
Michele Moran’s Maureen comes heftily from the fields, dressed for rough work, suggesting long hours over the years. It’s when she dons, and dwarfs, a slinky black dress to impress briefly-returned Pato (Stephen Hogan fine as the only reasonable character around) that sexual desire shoots out from her.
Stuck at home – on a stage where spaciousness and height unhelpfully loosen the cramped conditions in which mother and daughter are forced upon each other – kept running around by 70-year old parent Mags, her physical freedom in, or out of, the dress is almost acrobatic once alone with Pato. Later, as disappointment draws in, her handsome face becomes almost ugly with malevolent determination. Hints from earlier consolidate, with Mags a mouth-twisting figure whose apparent innocence hardly conceals self-interested calculation in Nora Connolly’s aptly repulsive incarnation.
Kerryson’s approach works for the tougher elements. Yet some of the loss these women feel is masked, and the pace muffles the near-miss third ‘McDonagh moment’, when a long-lost treasure is found by Andrew Macklin’s youthfully impatient Ray. And the final guillotine sound cuts-off the final horror as Maureen clutches the suitcase she’ll never use and a final shaft of light emphasises her mother’s rocking-chair as the future she will face through more long Leenane years.
Mags: Nora Connolly.
Maureen: Michele Moran.
Ray Dooley: Andrew Macklin.
Pato: Stephen Hogan.
Director: Paul Kerryson.
Designer: Juliet Shillingford.
Lighting: David W Kidd.
Sound: Jack C Arnold.