The Beauty Queen of Leenane

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The Beauty Queen of Leenane

The Beauty Queen of Leenane – Review by Trevor Sinclair

On Friday night I was lucky enough to see Sydney Theatre Company’s last big production of the season and I was not disappointed.

STC’s Director, Paige Rattray, has delivered an amazing new production of Martin McDonagh’s 1996 play The Beauty Queen of Leenane. It featured brilliant performances from Yael Stone and Noni Hazlehurst really sunk into your heart and took your mind on an amazing journey. The cast is completed by Hamish Michael and Shiv Palekar, who provide the best comedic support you could possibly hope for.

Maureen Folan (Yael Stone) is a 40-year-old woman whose life really hasn’t turned out the way she’d hoped. She’s living at home in Leenane, a tiny village in the hills of Ireland, caring for her grumpy, troublesome, sick with a urinary tract infection mother, Mag Folan (Noni Hazlehurst). Set in a misty and bitterly cold Irish village the set shows great attention to detail. The place they live in is an absolutely filthy dump, and just what is that persistent odour coming from the kitchen sink?

Mag resents what her life has become and the ways she has to rely on her disappointing daughter, while Maureen resents her mother for all the chances that she’s cost her. The two are locked in a bitter battle over the most mundane things: exactly how Mag wants her porridge done, the lumps that show up in the endless mugs of Complan and mugs of tea.

Then an unexpected invitation arrives from Pato Doodley (Hamish Michael), and Maureen can finally see a way she might be able to escape this cycle of abuse. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that not everything will go to plan for Mag and Maureen.

Noni Hazlehurst and Rael Stone own these roles completely, and there are genuine dramatic fireworks between them. They deliver performances so vivid they make you laugh, break your heart, and make you feel like you might be ill watching Maureen’s entire world shatter before your eyes. These are brilliant comedic performances rooted entirely in the truth of Mag’s horrifying situation. Her transformation into this decrepit old woman trying to cling onto control is an extraordinary display of her acting skills.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane is where we find playwright Martin McDonagh at his disturbing, frequently violent and cruel best as he brings us one of the darkest comedies of his career.

It’s playing at the Roslyn Packer Theatre until December 21.

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