Maureen Folan, a 40-year-old spinster, lives in the Irish village of Leenane, Connemara, in the early 1990s with her 70-year-old mother Mag, for whom she acts as caretaker. While Maureen is out, the Folan home is visited by Ray Dooley, a young man, who invites both women to a farewell party for his visiting American uncle. This is the setup for the Beauty Queen of Leenane, the terrifying relationship between mother and daughter is brilliantly built up, it slowly twists and turns as a tale of mothers, daughters and madness reaches its climax.
It is impossible to write of this text without being affected by seeing it performed; I was lucky enough to see the feted first revival at the Young Vic, a darkly comic piece indeed.. I remember turning to my neighbour, who was Irish, saying "I can see it's borrowed a lot from Father Ted " only to be corrected: it came first. It tells of Maureen, a woman of a certain age with the chance-of-a lifetime romance, one denied her so far by her needy, selfish mother, Mag. The style is distinctly Irish, pared down under Becket's inevitable influence but playful, a little like Synge, funny when puckish Ray Dooley a neighbour and brother of the man who might 'save' Maureen spars with them, bitter when the mother and daughter exchange their loaded conversations full of subtext. The name-checking of food and stuff serves to measure out the time spent mainly in one room, old-age for one sucking the life out of the daughter. When we meet the boyfriend, Pato Dooley, he is sweet, but it is poignant that for Maureen he is seen as a catch. In fact he's her lifesaver. Or would be. What creeps in as the short play proceeds is summed up by Yeats in his marvellous lines about the Easter Rising, "Great hatreds, little room" and suddenly we find just what that means. Poignant, well characterized and funny, what McDonagh does well is to keep us unaware of just what is at stake and how life-sapping this Mother is. I was reminded of Albert Steptoe, also never prepared to let his son have a life and ruthless in emotionally blackmailing offspring, similarly eloquent with self-pity dressed up as an arch stoicism. Mag and Maureen are like this, Master and Slave dialectic embodied to a 'T'. Yet this is no comedy, however funny it is on the way. They remind me of Larkin's famous line about parents in ''This be the Verse." It certainly is.
This play is exeptional. Written by Martin McDonagh. I have seen this play performed but reading it really brings home the terrifying character of Mag and her non stop demand for attention from her daughter. I have studied women in Irish theatre for my degree and this is one play that I will never forget. Set in the mountains of Connemara, The Beauty Queen of Leenane tells the darkly comic tale of Maureen Folan,a plain and lonely woman in her early 40s, and Mag, her manipulative ageing mother, whose interference in Maureen's first and possible final chance of a loving relationship set in motion a train of events that leads inexorably towards the play's terrifying denouement. Amazing play, one of a series by Martin McDonagh.
I saw this play at the Young Vic some years back but did not fully appreciate it until reading the play text just recently. It is a wonderfully plotted story, weaving between comedy and tragedy at any given moment. Martin McDonagh keeps the audience guessing throughout, raising expectations and then dashing them. It's a truly heartfelt play which left me feeling quite emotional by the end.
Definitely worth seeing, and definitely worth reading. Even if reading plays is not your thing. You will enjoy.
I have had the privelege to read a play that will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best from this era. Martin McDonagh has created a play with everything: genuine humour, deep haunting messages,senseless violence and powerful characters. To not read this would be a crime and as long as you imagine the irish accents you will be blown away.
A refreshing funny peculiarly Irish play Alan Ayckbourn has something of this style of dialogue. The action moves into sinister and dark areas of mind. Our playgroup managed to lock into the accents marvellously because the writing has an accurate ear. The ending leaves many questions about people locked into narrow lives of country existence.