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The Beauty Queen of Leenane
The Beauty Queen of Leenane One Year Later

One year later, Joe Hill-Gibbin's production of Martin McDonagh's tragic and hilarious black comedy returns to the Young Vic with the excellent Rosaleen Linehan still as the dreadful yet hysterically funny Mag.

Derbhle Crotty replaces Susan Lynch as the infuriated Maureen Folan, daughter and carer of Mag. Crotty's take on a woman so deep in hatred and exasperation for her mother and hopeless situation is very touching and hits all the right chords in provoking numerous laughs and gasps. Initially breathless and extensively erratic, Crotty settles into the role and we are put in quite a moral dilemma as we are witness to both the monstrous treatment by her mother but also the rather alarming, even, torturous nature of Maureen's behaviour.

Frank Laverty replaces David Ganly as the ever-optimistic Pato Dooley, providing some of the only moments of hope and escape for Maureen in her tragic and fruitless world. Laverty is well cast, and particularly shines during his monologue where he is ‘dictating' his letter to Maureen, taking the audience from laughter to empathy in a second. Johnny Ward completes a small yet outstanding cast as the hyperactive and hormonal messenger, Ray Dooley.

Every bit as well timed and disturbing as its first staging at the Young Vic, Hill-Gibbin's production is a masterful treat full of uproarious moments and shocking twists. We are spectators to truly effortless comedy, with at times being moved to creases at the slightest facial expression of Mag or by the rather animated and perhaps slapstick movements of Ray and Maureen. All the cast are well skilled in comic timing and the huge response from the crowd throughout confirm Gibson's piece has as much hilarity and surprise as ever.

McDonagh is so well tuned with the world he presents and the element of believability is impressively achieved. Funny and upsetting, McDonagh's play is a highly recommended night out.

Current Production Notes:
The Beauty Queen of Leenane
Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins
Starring: Derbhle Crotty, Frank Laverty, Rosaleen Linehan and Johnny Ward
Design: Ultz
Lighting: Charles Balfour
Sound: Paul Arditti
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes including a 20 minute interval
Box Office: 020 7922 2922
Booking to 3rd September 2011
Reviewed by Tim Newns based on 26th July 2011 production at the Young Vic, 66 The Cut, Waterloo, London SE1 8LZ

The Original Review Lizzie Loveridge

I suppose you'll never be dying. You'll be hanging on forever just to spite me. — Maureen
The Beauty Queen of Leenane
David Ganly as Pato Dooley and Susan Lynch as Maureen (Photo: Keith Pattison)
Martin McDonagh's first part of the Leenane Trilogy, his 1996 play The Beauty Queen of Leenane gets a stellar revival at the Young Vic under the direction of the Deputy Artistic Director Joe Hill-Gibbins. This play may be a black comedy but an even darker tragedy bubbles up and boils over as we examine the limited life choices of four people living in a small village on the west coast of Ireland. Above the mantelpiece is an image of two Irishmen who have done well in America but for whom the American Dream went very wrong: a photograph of John and Robert Kennedy. For one character in the play, Pato Dooley (David Ganly) there will be the promise of a new life in America.

The two central women, seventy year old Mag Folan (Rosaleen Linehan) and her forty year old unmarried daughter Maureen (Susan Lynch) are locked in a damaging relationship where both deeply resent each other. The old woman is a monstrous creation— complaining, manipulative, filthy in habit and action and deeply unappreciative of her daughter's care. Maureen, in turn, can be cruel to her mother. She is the daughter saddled with her sole care while her sisters have married and made lives of their own. Sometimes Maureen's unkindness is reactive to her mother's excesses but it is evident that these two people are in a hell of their own full of hatred, resentment and bloodymindedness.

When dressed to the nines in a sexy frock, Maureen goes to the party at the Dooley house where she meets Pato Dooley, a man of roughly her age who is about to leave to find work in London. Pato and Maureen come back to Maureen's house for the night. The mother, aware that her future depends on Maureen, does everything to damage any communication between Maureen and Pato in a malicious and interfering way.

Susan Lynch gives a wonderful performance. Angry and edgy, she is a caged tiger as the girl who had a breakdown and was given over by psychiatrists to the care of her mother. Rosaleen Linehan as the mother is nasty and resentful , saving her doubtful charm for visitors who she regales with tales of her YU-rine infection, and trying to paint the worst possible picture of her daughter. But whoever you sympathise with, this is a tied abusive relationship of classically tragic proportions with the inevitability of catastrophe.

Maureen switches from oppressed carer to wild girl when she is allowed out to the Dooley's party. With Pato she can become flirtatious and fun and the genuineness of her second cousin's affection shows when he tells her she is the beauty queen because she is so pretty. His letters to her are full of consideration and love. David Ganly's Pato is a gentle giant, vulnerable, not very bright and not at all tenacious. Terence Keeley who play's Pato's brother Ray, the go-between has a twenty year grudge to bear and maybe this is a case where the messenger should have been shot!.

Ultz the designer has completely transformed the Young Vic space into a dilapidated, unmodernised Connemara stone cottage with shabby furniture, an old fashioned range and walls of rainwater as it never seems to stop pouring, grim, depressing, relentless rain. Together everyone has produced a totally believable tragedy with many places to laugh out loud. Of course the reaction of some is to view high tragedy and laugh so there will be those laughing where others feel shocked. Irish music completes the atmosphere and is played at moments of great pain. We can only hope that the Young Vic will produce other McDonagh plays to this excellent standard.

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The Beauty Queen of Leenane
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins

Starring: Susan Lynch, Rosaleen Linehan, David Ganly, Terence Keeley
Design: Ultz
Lighting: Charles Balfour
Sound: Paul Arditti
Fight direction: Alison de Burgh
Sponsored by Clifford Chance, Hg Capital and Land Securities
Running time: Two hours 20 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7922 2922
Booking to 21st August 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 21st July 2010 performance at the Young Vic, The Cut, London SE1 8LZ (Rail/Tube: Waterloo/Southwark)

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