Martin McDonagh's play has gone on to
enormous success since its 1996 première in Galway. It had long runs in
New York and in London, garnering a slew of awards and rave reviews for
playwright and performers. In a bleak and depressing Connemara cottage,
Maureen Folan, the unfortunate daughter who,unlike her sisters, wasn't
allowed to escape, looks after her manipulative, demanding mother, Mag.
The drudgery and slog of daily life is interrupted by a visit from the
Dooley bothers. Ray, the irresponsible, soap watching, wastrel and
Pato, the elder brother, disenchanted with his life as a labourer on
English building sites but not really at home in Leenane either. We are
lulled into thinking that there is a chance that Pato might rescue the
fragile Maureen from her awful existence but McDonagh takes us down a
very different and enormously disturbing path.
Cara Kelly is superb as Maureen and so
too is Nora Connelly as her mother, delivering some of the best comic
lines but not allowing the humour to shield us entirely from the
malevolent monster that is Mag. Dylan Kennedy and John Kazek are
fine as the brothers who increasingly encroach on the insular lives of
mother and daughter and are the catalyst for the tragedy that enfolds.
We may not connect with the more grand
guignol aspects of the play but the themes of family tension, missed
opportunities, unfilled potential and desire for something better has
enormous resonance. While paying a debt to other great Irish writers,
McDonagh has created a language for the characters
that is entirely own, which both enhances the humour and illuminates
the Leenane he wants us to see. The Irish Tourist Board site for
Leenane, the gateway to Connemara, waxes lyrical about a film made and
music the village inspired but it does not mention McDonagh's play.
Funny that, is it not?
ultimately tragic play,beautifully performed, effectively directed by
Tony Cownie, McDonagh brilliantly blends black humour and melodrama
taking some unexpected twists, leaving the audience laughing, moved and
repulsed in equal measures.