The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Tower Theatre

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Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane has been on my list for a long time and when I heard Tower Theatre were putting on a production as part of their 2019 season I jumped at the chance to see it.

Maureen (Julia Flatley) is a 40 year old spinster living in Galway and caring for her elderly mother, Mag (Amanda Waggott). Her life is isolated, very few friends, constant chores, resentment towards her mother as her sisters live abroad and have families. When an opportunity arises to attend a local party, despite her mother’s protests it throws her miserable life and interesting bone in the shape of Pato Dooley (Simon Brooke), who works abroad and shows her the life she could have.

The source material is McDonagh at its finest with its dark humour and a snapshot of Ireland as it deals with scandals and increasing rights such as divorce. It also looks at the issue of the Irish abroad, mistreated away from home but nothing to go home for. It is a deeply moving production with Flatley’s lead performance providing this play with gravitas as she moves effortlessly between comedy and tragedy, encompassing the character’s complex relationship with herself as well as other people. All the characters have great chemistry and Amanda Waggott’s performance shows the complexity of a woman who does nasty things for what she believes are the right reasons. Simon Brooke and Nick Cannon, as Ray Dooley, messenger for his brother and the representation of the Irish youth, desperate to escape the isolation and lack of jobs.

Collette Dockery’s direction struggled with the constant scene changes; the decision to go dark rather than choreograph these more seamlessly slowed down the key tension but the set design from Philip Ley was perfect for the setting with its coal fire and lack of modern white goods.

This is a nicely done production and I look forward to seeing what Tower Theatre produces with some interesting and rarely performed productions forming their 2020 season.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is on until 16 November https://www.towertheatre.org.uk/event/the-beauty-queen-of-leenane-2019-11-12/

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