Martin McDonagh’s debut 1996 play returns to the Young Vic in Joe Hill-Gibbins’s terrific production, with Rosaleen Linehan reprising her brilliant and unrestrained performance of last July as the bullying, whimpering, manipulative mother, Mag, high in the mountains of Connemara.
Mag’s daughter, Maureen, is now played by Derbhle Crotty, less worn down to start with than was Susan Lynch, but just as moving and frustrated by the end. For the richness of this play lies in the almost mythical representation of a tug of love between mother and daughter, and the malign pull of a sense of duty on both sides.
Maureen’s brutally obstructed escape route comes courtesy of Pato Dooley, a decent and tentative navvy on leave from exile in London, while Pato’s younger brother, Ray, causes the catastrophe as a careless postman. These two are now played by Frank Laverty and Johnny Ward, every bit as good as their predecessors.
Ultz’s wonderful design, both satirical and hyper-realist, like McDonagh’s writing, begins on the way in, with dripping water and bleak outfields inducting us into the Synge-song shabbiness of Mag’s cottage where Linehan, one of the great Irish actresses of our day, reigns supreme in her conniving little kingdom.