The Beauty Queen Of Leenane
28 October 2009 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Contempt - that’s how they say you can gauge how healthy a relationship is, how long a couple might last. Those trained in the art can detect it from a few snippets of conversation. I wonder what they would make of Maureen Folan ( Alice Selwyn) and her mother Mag ( Carole Dance) who, for the best part of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, throw nothing but glances of disgust and mean triumph. Martin McDonagh’s award winning script holds no tongues; the pair sparring constantly on every detail of their monotonous lives. In this County Galway household, Maureen, in her mid-forties, has been left behind by married sisters to care for her ageing mother in a life of near seclusion. Beautifully inane exchanges about the TV, radio and Complan abound, particularly between Mag and the young neighbour Ray ( Alan DeVally). The set comprises the Folan’s living room with Mag’s often occupied rocking chair allowing for a disturbingly placid yet powerful finale. Maureen is thrown a lifeline in the shape of love interest Pato, Ray’s elder brother ( Steve Dineen filling in at the last minute for Paul Boyle with remarkable ease, never mind ability). Unsurprisingly, Mag does everything in her power to prevent the match which eventually causes Maureen to reach boiling point. Selwyn as Maureen is quite masculine as she stroppily attends to her mother making her late night scene with Pato all the more tender. She lets Maureen’s rage melt away in the hope that romantic attention brings. Otherwise Selwyn’s face is fantastically distorted into Maureen’s ugly, smug recognition that she retains some control despite her mother’s manipulative interfering. Dance’s portrayal of Mag must be low key by comparison; we only glean how hell bent she is on keeping Maureen at home from understated changes in her manner. The cough after she burns the party invitation or else the way Dance doesn’t take her eyes off Pato’s letter in Ray’s hand. I’ve never heard the phrases ‘I suppose you are’ and ‘I suppose you do’ fill me with such frustration for one person, dread for the other. A mix of the melodramatic and the macabre, this production grips you not particularly with shock at what is enfolding but a sense of an absorbing slowly paced tragedy in amongst the uncomfortable laughs.The heartiest audience reactions are not only for clichés like the Irish tendency to hold long grudges but for some of Maureen’s more obscene outpourings of hate. As they come out for their final bow, I had forgotten there were just four parts, and four players, in this beautifuly realised production. Over two hours bursting with emotion; equal parts hope and despair and just the four on the stage at the end. They weren’t exactly beaming. Selwyn and Dance must have been exhausted. But it wasn’t difficult to detect a certain satisfaction at doing justice to a superb play. -Sophie Charara Related Content
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