The Royal Court Theatre presents
The Beauty Queen of Leenane ( Archived )
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Garry Hynes
29 November - 4 January 1997
There is no further information for this production. For archival material contact the V&A Museum
(L to R) Anna Manahan as Meg, Peter Gowen as Pato, Kate Burton as Maureen, Ruaidhri Conroy as Ray
Photography from the 2000 touring production by Derek Spiers
THEATRE UPSTAIRS March 1996
“The latest in the Royal Court’s amazing run of exciting discoveries is Martin McDonagh, yet another fine Irish playwright. He’s only in his mid-twenties, damn him, and his first play, The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, is an absolute cracker. The extraordinary acheivement of this play is that it is wildly funny, deeply affecting and grotesquely macabre all at the same time. During it’s most potent scenes you don’t know whether to laugh, cry or gasp with horror.
“The action is set in the Connemara home of Mag Folan, a malevolent old boot you’d cross the street to avoid. She’s attended by her hapless daughter Maureen, a virgin at 40, who is endlessly nagged and bullied by her mum and takes such small revenges as always ensuring that Mag’s Complan is lumpy. The relationship is charted with the blackest of humour, and the baleful silences, festering resentments and moments of virulent spite are all wickedly enjoyable.
“Garry Hynes’s production is impeccable. Francis O’Connor’s design conjures up the drab squalor of Meg’s kitchen and all four performances are superb. As the fat monster of a mother, Anna Manahan creates an utterly plausible mixture of malign stupidity and low-down cunning, and somehow makes the most neutral lines outrageously funny.”
Charles Spencer, DAILY TELEGRAPH 8 March
“The Beauty Queen of Leenane is an astonishingly assured debut. It exploits Irish theatrical tradition and, at the same time, subtly undermines it… This is Synge country, a study of solitude and desertion in western Ireland. But McDonagh takes a stock form and reanimates it in several ways. In the first place, by showing that Maureen, far from being a self-pitying spinster, is every bit as ruthless as her exploitative mother. As excellently played by Marie Mullen, Maureen is full of ancient grudges and gets a savage delight out of serving her mum lumpy Complan or even pouring boiling fat over her. Maureen, we gradually realise, is not so much wistful as severly damaged.
“McDonagh also brings a post-modern irony to his Synge-song fable. The Galway village has become a global village as the characters stare at Australian soaps on the box. And there is one tremendous scene in which Pato’s brother, Ray, delivers a crucial love-letter to the absent Maureen. As the mother greedily eyes the all-important letter, it becomes a plot-device straight out of Boucicault. At the same time, as Ray beats his head against the wall in frustration, the scene wittily catches the poleaxing boredom of Irish rural life.
“McDonagh is both exploiting and exposing the Celtic myth … Garry Hynes’s production expertly catches the play’s tension between ancient and modern. Francis O’Connor’s set, down to the illuminated crucifix, is a model of rustic realism, and Anna Manahan and Tom Murphy lend their big scene the tension of high comedy… An outstanding first play that makes you impatient for more McDonagh.”
Michael Billington, THE GUARDIAN 8 March
THEATRE DOWNSTAIRS December 1996
“The poisonous symbyosis of parent and child has been an Irish theme since Synge’s Playboy of the Western World; but seldom have I ever seen the venom fizzing about the stage to better dramatic effect than in Martin McDonagh’s debut play. McDonagh deserves his recent award for the most promising dramatist of 1996 and his play merits the move from the Theatre Upstairs … The piece combines human shrewdness, a command of black comedy and a knack for sustaining tension to an extent astonishing in a writer in his mid-twenties… An objection to the play might be that Mag is less fully explored. But if you learn nothing about her parents or her dead husband, Garry Hynes’s production leaves you with a strong sense of the soul-destroying world outside. A village so drear that kicking a cow can result in a 20-year grudge is, after all, likely to breed monsters.”
Benedict Nightingale, THE TIMES 5 December
“McDonagh is a superb technician. Having lured his audience on the promise of an off-the-shelf Irish domestic drama, McDonagh accelerates the tempo and lands surprise after surprise; none of them resistable and most of them sprung with perfect traps. It’s a strangely heightened world, suspended somewhere between the heartgrip of melodrama and the hysteria of farce, in which you’re never quite sure which is the crueller of the two women; who the most doolally…
“It’s full of gritty, realistic detail – a kitchen so filthy you can almost smell the urine Mag insists on emptying down the sink, Australian soaps on the television and tiny, illuminated crucifixes. Tom Murphy, Brian F O’Byrne, Anna Manahan and Jane Brennan turn in muscular performances finely tuned to play’s blackly comic pulse.”
Kate Stratton, TIME OUT 10 December
THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE