The farmhouse walls are partly torn down in Hull Truck’s new production of Martin McDonagh’s breakout play. It feels as if the claustrophobic world of warring mother and daughter Mag and Maureen is finally being opened up, at least a little, even though the atmosphere remains uncomfortably close in Mark Babych’s revival.
Mag (Maggie McCarthy) commands her little kingdom from her rocking chair by the stove, her voice becoming harsher every time life fails to match up to her ideals, which, given her exacting demands on everything from porridge to cups of tea, is quite often.
The character of Mag is a potentially monstrous role, but it becomes something altogether more subtle in McCarthy’s performance. The interactions between her and Siobhan O’Kelly, as her daughter Maureen, demonstrate how power is constantly shifting between them. In this household, Mag is as much a frail patient as a fearsome matriarch.
Much of the play’s appeal rests with the struggle between these two women – there’s a pounding rhythm to their arguments – which seems all the more horribly fascinating because of what underpins their quarrels.
For Maureen, it’s the sense of a life that’s slipping away. O’Kelly makes sure you can feel the regret gnawing at her. For Mag, it’s the fear that the arrival of the charming Pato Dooley (Nicholas Boulton) could undermine the hold she has on her daughter.
The arrival of Boulton’s Pato, and Laurence Pybus as the engagingly dim go-between Ray, adds a darker frisson to Babych’s production. Though Sara Perks’ set lets in a sliver of light, everyone here, in their own way, is walled in.