Last night a small group of Whatsonstage.com theatregoers made their way to the Young Vic for our Group Outing to The Beauty Queen of Leenane. This dark comedy returns following a successful run last year and with Rosaleen Linehan at the helm once more as controlling mother Mag, the production is as upsetting as it is humorous.

Passing into the auditorium we all got a little wet with the “rain” that drizzles down the temporary side-walls and over the doors. Not only does the dripping of the rain create a mood for the piece, placing you in the heart of Gallway from the start but, as one theatregoer mentioned at interval, it helps to provide the very powerful scent of damp that pervades the piece. And the closeness of the space and oppression of the rain compound the tensions within the play – confinement, fear, desire to escape – all are trapped by the beautiful stage and the power of what is said and unsaid in this superbly crafted script.

A seemingly simple story of a manipulative mother Mag and her spinster daughter, the lonely Maureen (Derbhle Crotty) who longs for the romance that will spirit her away, grows progressively darker and more complex as the power play between mother and daughter intensifies. Both Crotty and Linehan play their parts with a sincerity which is terrifying in such a dark piece and when asked at the Q&A whether they saw any good at the heart of their character, both agreed that they’d had to work hard to truly understand the character’s motivations but believed they could.

Meanwhile Frank Laverty and Johnny Ward confirmed that even in a play about mother-daughter relationships they, as the only men, didn’t feel secondary in their roles, but rather felt that they brought the only real sense of an outside world to the claustrophobic chaos of Mag and Maureen. Beyond talking about their own roles all four actors were happy to talk about their Irish roots and how those have helped their experience of the piece as well as their trip to Gallway and how reactions to the play have differed in London, Ireland and around the UK. 

As always, please feel free to email your comments and thoughts about the play, as well as any of your favourite insights from last night to feedback@whatsonstage.com. We would love to hear from you.

Laura Norman