Susan Lynch: Why You Should Come & See Ö The Beauty Queen of LeenaneDate: 12 July 2010
Susan Lynch stars with fellow Irish actress Rosaleen Linehan in the first major London revival of Martin McDonaghís award-winning debut The Beauty Queen of Leenane, the play about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship which premiered at the Royal Court in 1996, helping to launch its author into the spotlight at the age of 25.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane was the first in McDonaghís Leenane trilogy, which also comprised A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West. His other plays include The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Pillowman, and premiered this year on Broadway with Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, A Behanding in Spokane. McDonagh won an Oscar for his screen writing and directing debut, the short film Six Shooter, which he followed with In Bruges, starring Ralph Fiennes and Colin Farrell.
Susan Lynchís credits include: on stage, The Night Season, O Go My Man, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and, most recently at the Old Vic, the revival of Dancing at Lughnasa; and on screen Elizabeth: the Golden Age, Enduring Love, From Hell, Beautiful Creatures, The Unloved and The Secret Diary of Anne Lister.
Martin McDonagh is one of the few playwrights that young people in Ireland have actually heard of. My niece and nephew, who are studying film now, theyíre always asking me have I read or seen any of Martin McDonaghís plays. There are a lot of Irish playwrights they just donít know about, but him they know, mainly from In Bruges because itís such a big film. In fact, the only McDonagh play Iíve seen was The Lieutenant of Inishmore when it was in the West End, and I absolutely loved it. But Iíd never read any of his plays before I was sent this one. Itís so weird. I donít know how I missed the first production because itís such an extraordinary play, but somehow I did.
In a way, Iím glad. Itís like when I did Brian Frielís Dancing at Lughnasa last year. I hadnít seen the original production of that either, even though it was really famous. Thatís quite nice because it means you can come as a sort of blank interpreter. Youíre not like, ďwell, I think it should be like this because when I saw the other production they did it like thisĒ. A fresh take can only be helpful for a revival.
Itís really hard for me to talk about The Beauty Queen of Leenane because Iím worried Iím going to give too much away! Itís about a mother and her daughter, who live in a very remote place in the west of Ireland called Leenane in Galway, where theyíve been pretty much on their own together for the past 20 years. My character, Maureen, is the daughter. Itís basically about this 40-year-old womanís struggle to have a life beyond looking after her very demanding mother. You find out a lot more about the daughter, why she hides herself away, why she has such low self-esteem, why she puts up with her mother. At the beginning, you think, ďwhy doesnít she just leave?Ē Actually, she did leave 15 years before, but then the play explains that.
The main thing I think of with this story is freedom. You know, your mental freedom, your freedom from another human being. And the lack of freedom, the sense of being trapped and what that can do to your mind. Even before the play starts, thatís a big part of the journey for Maureen. Sheís always been trapped, even when she left her mother and went to work in England, she was still trapped. For me, itís more about that mental rather than physical entrapment. And also the power of love.
The play is ruthless in charting the relationships in it, and beneath that, this extraordinary sense of isolation and loneliness, but at the same time, itís just so funny and so truthful. It also shows a very dark side to the west of Ireland - which Iím sure the people in the west of Ireland donít like at all! But I think McDonagh set these plays there simply because of its remoteness.
Mag, my onstage mother, is played by Rosaleen Linehan. Iíve never worked with her before, but her reputation comes before her. Sheís a really, really well-known actress in Ireland. And sheís adorable, just the loveliest woman Ė very different from Mag! Sheís very earthy and obviously a beautiful mother in real life, so itís hilarious to see her transformation into this almost child-like and sometimes incredibly vicious parent.
We also have two other great actors, David Ganly who plays Pato and Terence Keeley who plays Ray, and a fantastic director in Joe Hill-Gibbins. And it would seem unfair not to mention as well our amazing designer Ultz and our fantastic stage management headed by Holly and our flawless sound and lighting team. Itís a blessed company. Weíre very happy.
Iíd like to think that this production might herald revivals of the next two plays in the Leenane trilogy, A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West. I hope so. McDonaghís writing is just so good. And also itís really entertaining, thatís the other thing. Iíd describe The Beauty Queen of Leenane as like Steptoe and Son meets Quentin Tarantino with a bit of Blanche Dubois over a smelly west of Ireland kitchen sink in the A-hole of nowhere. In some ways, itís like a classic play, but you know that youíre going to have a great, fun night out - heís balanced that brilliantly.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane runs at the Young Vic from 21 July to 21 August 2010 (previews from 15 July).