Review: Beauty Queen of Leenane
MOLLY O’CONNOR enjoyed the show with its impressive live musicians but feels a little more drama is needed.
Tue 19th – Sat 23rd May, 7pm, Corpus Playroom, £6/5
The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a pitch black comedy set in Connemara, the depths of rural Ireland. It centres around the relationship between Mag, an elderly, incontinent invalid and her daughter Maureen, a forty year old spinster whose life revolves around caring for her mother. But when an opportunity arises for Maureen to finally build a life that is all her own, far away from her mother, Mag has no intention of letting her leave and matters quickly turn dark.
The acting in the play was generally of a good standard with no obvious weak link amongst the cast. Martha Murphy and Posey Mehta did an excellent job building the characters of Maureen and Mag respectively. The audience truly got the sense that while both women were each pretty terrible human beings in their own way, they had vulnerabilities, fears, hopes and dreams that made the audience sympathise with them regardless.
However considering that it’s a play that rests heavily on it’s moments of high drama, I felt that the cast generally excelled more at the more light hearted scenes while the more shocking moments seemed to fall flat and not live up to their dramatic potential. This may be a matter of first night jitters though.
I think that this will be a play that only improves over the course of it’s run and if the cast can kick up the drama a notch during certain scenes, I feel that the play will make much more of an impact on it’s audience.
As it was set in Ireland, the cast were called upon to produce their best Irish accents. They were strong across the board, all believably sounding as though they could be from Galway.
My only issue was one of clarity. I am Irish and have spent a lot of time in Galway, and while Mehta’s accent was certainly accurate, I often found it impossible to understand what was said at certain points in the play. The rest of the cast however, struck a balance between accuracy and clarity that was very impressive.
Sound in this play was also quite impressive. The decision to have live musicians playing over scene transitions was an excellent one that really enhanced the atmosphere in the Corpus Playroom. The frequent sound effects of static television and radio also added to the sense of distance between Mag and Maureen’s home and the rest of civilisation and contributed to our understanding of Maureen’s feelings of isolation and helplessness, trapped alone in the house with no company but her mother.
Overall I enjoyed The Beauty Queen of Leenane. In spite of its’ flaws this play was entertaining, darkly funny and at times shocking and it provided a nice break from the monotony of exam term.
The play and it’s cast have plenty of potential. Assuming these small issues are fixed , this is a play that I’d certainly recommend.
To see more of Johannes’ images, check out his blog here