Review-The Beauty Queen of Leenane- Hong Kong Arts Festival
By Nicole Garbellini
Set in the Irish countryside in the mid-nineties, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a dark comedy written by Martin McDonagh and presented in Hong Kong by Irish touring production Druid.
For whoever knows Martin McDonagh's writing style and has encountered plays like The Pillowman or The Lieutenant of Inishmore, lots of OMG moments, a very thick Irish accent by every performer and very intricated plots are to be expected. The Beauty Queen of Leenane went far beyond my expectations.
The play takes place in Mag and Maureen's kitchen/living room: the set is beautifully and expertly designed, even though in my opinion it would have been brilliant to watch this play in a black box theatre. A bit of the intimacy was lost because of the venue's big space. To my surprise, English subtitles (together with Chinese, of course) were offered: I have struggled in the past to understand thick regional accents, and that put me at ease immediately.
As the play begins, we are directly projected in the sad and claustrophobic world of Maureen, a forty-year-old virgin who is manipulated and controlled by her overbearing mother Mag, who uses bland health issues to make Maureen her 24-hours servant. Mag controls whoever could be a potential threat to take Maureen out of the house. When Ray Dooley invites Maureen to his house for a family gathering, Mag burns the message in the stove to make sure the invite doesn't reach her daughter. When things work out for Maureen, and she meets a suitor who is smitten with her, things turn out for the worse. It is impossible to predict anything in this play, because even though spectators know there is a chance that something might turn wrong, or right perhaps, there are moments of shock that take the audience completely off-guard. It's a true rollercoaster of unpredictable events and emotions that make everyone holding one's breath. As the plot unravelled into darker moments the audience was so into it last night that ended up expressing itself in a rather loud manner- it was impossible not to. I kept jumping on my chair. I haven't felt like this watching a play in a long time.
The performance of both Marie Mullen (Mag) and Aisling O'Sullivan is utterly magnetic and mesmerising. Marie Mullen first played the part of the daughter when Druid first staged the play about twenty years ago, and she has now returned to the stage in the role of the mother. Aaron Monaghan portrayed the dumb yet edgy Ray Dooley, showing perfect comedic time, and Marty Rea as Pato Dooley showed absolute solidity and consistency. It is hard to find a single flaw in this performance, and all the four actors executed beautifully.
If tickets for this show are still available, I would highly recommend to grab them before they go. Beauty Queen of Leenane is something not to be missed. There would be so many points to talk about, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. It is really for the audience to see.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane plays from March 16-19 at 7.30 and 2.30pm. For more information, click here.
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