The Beauty Queen of Leenane

Presented by the Adelaide Repertory Theatre Society
Reviewed Thursday 23rd June 2011

Venue: ARTS Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 8pm nightly Wed to Sat until Sat 2nd July, 2pm Sat 2nd July.
Duration: 2 hours, including 20 minute intermission
Tickets: Adult $20/conc $15
Bookings: 8212 5777 or [email protected]

Director, Kerrin White, has done a great job with Martin McDonagh’s black comedy, set in 1989 in Leenane, a small village in Connemara, County Galway, in the West of Ireland.

The play opens with the sound of the cold wind blowing, drawing you further into the old, lived-in kitchen where the dark comedy of The Beauty Queen of Leenane unfolds. Mag and Maureen Folan live together in a dysfunctional and generally disturbing Mother-Daughter relationship. Their lives are clearly made more difficult by one another and their story along, with some convincing Irish accents, captures you from the very beginning.

Mag is a selfish, bossy and impatient woman who interferes with her daughter’s life, and perhaps ruins her last chance at love. Jude Brennan delivers a strong performance in the often conflicting character of Mag, who moves you from contempt to pity and back again.

Maureen, played with great sensitivity by Helen Jeffries, is a 40 year old woman who spends most of her free time making cups of Camplan and porridge for her mother, desperate for a different life. We watch her chance at love and a new life grow, and then slip through her fingers.

There are some heavy moments, but also a lot of humour, especially with the arrival of Pato Dooley, Maureen’s love interest played by Peter Davies. Peter Davies is engaging and brings a refreshing light-heartedness to the situation through his character, Pato, allowing the tiniest bit of hope to flourish for Maureen.

Pato’s little brother, Ray Dooley, played by Mark Drury, manages to be well intentioned and likeable, but also annoying in a little brother kind of way.

The year is 1989 but you would hardly realise it, if not for the fashion and some amusing television references. It doesn’t matter though, it could be 1950 or 2011, the story doesn’t lose any of its punch.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a dark and entertaining look at the complexities of life and relationships, serving up unexpected twists and turns along the way and leaving you wondering if the truth is ever what it appears to be.

Reviewed by Kathryn Noble, Special Guest Performing Arts Critic, Glam Adelaide

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