Christabel Sved’s revival of Irish dramatist Martin McDonagh’s play ‘The Beauty Queen Of Leenane’ is an outstanding production of a terrific play.
McDonagh’s play hits the bullseye, slam-dunks the basketball, rattles the stumps, kicks the goal, as he tellingly charts the story of a huge battle of wills that takes place between a very difficult, domineering elderly mother, Mag and her unfulfilled spinster middle aged daughter Maureen as they live out their days in their run down home in the sleepy country town of Leenane, Ireland.
From the start, Sved’s production is right on target. Audiences come in to be greeted by William Bobbie Stewart’s comprehensive, superb set of the dilapidated home, lost in another time and place. Edgy music, chosen by Max Lyandvert, filters through the theatre.
McDonagh gives the two leading actresses great, meaty roles to play, and they ‘nail’ them. Judi Farr embodies the role of Mag; grotesque, selfish, manipulative, dishonest. Mag will do anything to keep Maureen under her thumb. Mandy McElhinney is the set-upon, frustrated Maureen who know that she is trapped and will do anything, including leaving her mother behind, to make a life for herself.
Darren Gilshenan and Eamon Farren play the two other roles, those of the brothers Dooley. Gilshenan gives a moving performance as the ‘last chance’ gentleman caller, Pato Dooley, in a part reminiscent of two great Tennessee Williams characters, Mitch in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and Jim O’Connor in ‘A Glass Menagerie’. Eman Farren impresses as his brasher, more impetuous and a little twisted brother, Ray.
Sved’s production brings out the humour, albeit very dark, in the piece, and there are some very funny moments. A highlight of the production was Verity Hampson’s evocative lighting design that contributed greatly to the play’s impact.
Christabel Sved’s production is currently playing Wharf 2 at the Sydney Theatre Company until the 13th March, 2010 as part of this year’s Theatre In Education program. This is a production that a student of good drama of any age should appreciate! Though mainly catering for school audiences, there are some evening performances available to the general public. It is best to contact the Sydney Theatre Company directly to obtain performance times.