Life is bleak in the desolate farm house in rural Ireland, its cold, its damp and for Maureen and her mother Mag, any glimpse of happiness is one to be grabbed. The only problem is both are too busy fighting the other to notice.
Martin McDonagh’s Beauty Queen of Leenane is receiving a much overdue first major London revival at the Young Vic and this 1996 play still has the power to shock.
Maureen is a 40year old virgin, stuck in the decrepit house with her overbearing elderly mother Mag. Maureen dreams of a new life with local man Pato Dooley but Mag isn’t about to let her live in skivvy escape that easily.
This is a house of secrets and recrimination, Mag is not the sweet granny she may appear and Maureen has her own demons barely contained.
McDonagh’s script drips pure venom but is tempered with some much needed and perfectly crafted comedy. By the time of the harrowing climax the audience are truly gripped and from the audible gasps truly shocked. Director Joe Hill-Gibbins drives the action forward at a pace while allowing the tensions in the house to bubble like the ever present brewing cup of Complan.
You can almost smell the damp in designer Ultz’s ramshackle house, this being one of those houses you wipe your feet when leaving. Plaster is barely hanging to the wall and the ever present rain seems to permeate everything,
The power of the script and direction are undeniably strong however, the joy, if that is the correct word in this world of misery, is the two central performances from Susan Lynch and Rosaleen Linehan. Lynch’s downtrodden Maureen visibly deteriorates in front of our eyes while the Linehan’s deliciously malevolent Mag drips hate with every roll of the eye. You would be lucky to catch two finer performances in London at the moment.
It may be uncomfortable viewing at times but should be essential viewing and this production will take a lot of beating.