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The Beauty Queen of Leenane review at Young Vic

Joe Hill-Gibbins’ 2010 Young Vic production of Martin McDonagh’s very black comedy returns after touring with a largely new cast but with none of its power to amuse and its ability to horrify diminished.

An Irish spinster and the mother she cares for take out their separate and shared bitterness through constant sniping and dirty tricks such as lumpy porridge. We watch in amusement as the almost ritualistic warfare gradually escalates and then, in horror, as it moves into the realm of true madness. Much of the power comes from the fact that McDonagh will not allow us to stop laughing even as we begin to feel guilty for doing so.

Hill-Gibbins establishes the almost TV sitcom familiarity of the initial situation and then guides the play smoothly through its subtle shifts in tone as it moves from joking to horror and then to unexpected pathos.

Rosaleen Linehan, who played the mother last year, knows that woman inside and out and commands the character and the stage from the opening seconds, when her darting and constantly alert eyes let us know that nothing she says or does is without malicious deliberation.

Derbhle Crotty takes the daughter on a journey from victim to victor to villain and back to victim, holding the audience’s belief and sympathy throughout. There are also strong supporting performances, alternately comic and touching, by Frank Laverty and Johnny Ward.

Production Information

Young Vic, July 20-September 3

Author
Martin McDonagh
Director
Joe Hill-Gibbins
Producer
Young Vic
Cast
Rosaleen Linehan, Derbhle Crotty, Frank Laverty, Johnny Ward
Running time
2hrs 20mins

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