The Beauty Queen of Leenane, now playing at the Queen’s Theatre, is a beautiful dark, moving, and sometimes funny, play set in rural Ireland in the mid 90s. It tells the tale of a manipulative mother, an awful hypochondriac, and her spinster daughter.
Ma, chides and chivvies her daughter all the time for her needs, requiring her Complan and porridge and telling Maureen, her daughter, that only she can make these up! The tension is palpable between the two, resentment from Maureen, manipulation from Ma.
Ray, a young neighbour drops in to see Ma to tell her about a leaving party at his parents’ house, will be held the following evening if she and Maureen would like to go. He leaves urging Ma to tell Maureen. Maureen arrives back home and Ma does not mention the party only to be told that Maureen has bumped into Ray and found out. Maureen buys a new dress, goes to the party and returns home to her house with Rays’ brother Pato, knowing Ma would be in bed. Maureen’s pent up emotions are awakened and opened as she spends the night with Pato. During these tender moments Pato tells Maureen that she is The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
Such a simple line but carrying so much tenderness. She fills fulfilled until the morning when Ma during a bout of bitchiness brings up the fact that she had spent time in a asylum whilst working in England.Pato, is calm and tries to reassure Maureen that these things happen and that there is no problem, but the tension grows and she forces him to leave. Pato is now returning to England to work as a labourer on the building sites.
When back in England Pato spends a long time deliberating over a letter he has written to Maureen, explaining the fact that he has an opportunity to go to America and wants her to go with him. He urges his brother Ray to hand the letter to Maureen and nobody else.
Of course, Ray, the impetuous one, bored and fed up with waiting, hands the letter to Ma who swears that she will give to Maureen; she puts it in the fire. Too late Maureen find out that Pato is home and having a leaving party before going to the US of A, and what his intentions were. Not only this but he is now engaged to another woman.
I will not tell of the ending as it one of emotion and sadness and should be left to the imagination, suffice to say that it will leave you thinking about life, death and how we treat each other.
The whole play is beautifully acted with sensitivity and pathos, the set, lighting and interspersed music all create an atmosphere of light and shade.
This production of Martin McDonagh’s play is in partnership with the Hull Truck Theatre Company and directed by Mark Babych.