Sunday, May 15, 2011

'The Beauty Queen of Leenane' in the Gaiety Theatre

The Beauty Queen of Leenane was first staged in 1996. It was playwright Martin McDonagh's first play and proved hugely successful, being staged not only in Ireland but also in London and New York. The play won numerous awards and received critical acclaim. Perhaps unsurprisingly there have been many productions of the play since that time.

The play is a dark comedy, telling the story of Maureen, a 40-year-old woman who has remained at home to care for her mother while her sisters have left and married. Maureen is resentful and lonely; her mother Mag is domineering and selfish. When Maureen sees a last chance for romance and escape, Mag fears she will be abandoned and left alone.

Rosaleen Linehan as Mag Folan

This staging of the play in the Gaiety is a quality production. The set has an exceptional level of detail and physicality. The acting is generally good - Rosaleen Linehan's comic timing as Mag is perfect.

McDonagh's script is undeniably a success, but I did find the pace of the play a little uneven, while the use of foreshadowing makes the play somewhat predictable. It should also be said that the dialogue felt slightly stylised and at times even a bit stage-Oirish. None of this is a criticism of the Gaiety's production; the play is what it is, and overall I can see why they'd want to show it - this is a very funny play and the audience clearly loved it.

One criticism I have to make of this production is that although it achieves a great deal of comedy, this comes at the expense of the darker side of the play. There are moments when the play almost strays into pantomime, undermining the credibility of the tough, dramatic conflict of wills between Maureen and her mother.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane perhaps does not quite live up to its reputation, but it is entertaining. Not a must-see, but enjoyable and funny.

The play runs until Saturday 4th June 2011.

Also on: Pygmalion in the Abbey Theatre. Running until 11th June.

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