Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Thursday 20 October 2016

Still much to savour on 20th anniversary despite all the ghosts of the past

The Beauty Queen of Leenane
Town hall theatre, Galway

Sophie Gorman

Published 24/09/2016 | 07:00

Echoing sadness: Aisling O’Sullivan and Marie Mullen
Echoing sadness: Aisling O’Sullivan and Marie Mullen

It has been 20 years since Martin McDonagh’s first play seared itself indelibly into the Irish theatre landscape. To mark its anniversary, it has been brought back to where it all began and same hand is at the tiller, director Garry Hynes. There is one critical change; Marie Mullen has swapped roles, and the Beauty Queen is now her enduringly embittered mother Mag.

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There is a strong sense of that original production here, particularly in Francis O’Connor’s design. There is something almost brutal to this Irish country cottage, a home without hearth or heart. The cement walls are stained with smoke and who knows what else. It could be 100 years ago or yesterday. Rain literally pours down outside and metaphorically inside.

An old woman, Mag, is in her rocking chair when her 40-year-old daughter Maureen arrives with the shopping. Before she has taken off her coat, her mother is demanding. She wants her Complan, her porridge, the radio, she wants... But Maureen can give as good as she gets. There are two of them in this battle and both are cantankerous adversaries.

Stealing the show, Marie Mullen easily steps into Mag’s trainers, she has eyes that are deceptively sweet, paired with ice-cold malevolence. Aisling O’Sullivan presents a different Maureen, hers is more of a petulant teenager. It is hard to believe that all of her hope is past.

This is a play of aphotic humour and echoing sadness. But this production does not fully mine the seam of sorrow, though the comedic timing is brilliant. There are still moments that will fasten to your memory and much to savour. But this is haunted by the ghosts of the past and they have cast such unforgettable and impossible shadows.


Riot Spiegeltent, Dublin

By Eamon Sweeney

At previous Dublin Fringe Festival events, the distinctive mirrored travelling Spiegeltent was often not used to its full effect.

‘RIOT’ occupies every inch of an in-the-round stage for a kaleidoscopic evening of theatre, music, comedy, drag, variety, circus performances and searing social commentary.

‘RIOT’ also marks the 10th anniversary of Thisispopbaby; a theatre company that has staged numerous productions in the Abbey, IMMA and Electric Picnic, plus nationwide tours from national treasure and “accidental activist” Panti.

The Queen of Ireland also contributes with an impassioned speech on how destiny doesn’t really exist, and you simply have to fulfil your dreams through hard graft.

Panti is probably the only performer in Ireland, and quite possibly the world, who can wear a medical boot to nurse a leg injury and still look stylish.

Emmet Kirwan raps about repealing the Eighth Amendment, poverty, inequality and modern life and the audience hang on to his every word.

It packs more of a visceral punch sandwiched between strip tease routines and sketches from spandex sporting comedy duo Lords of Strut and folk dance misfits Up & Over It.

‘RIOT’ more than lives up to its name in delivering one of the most colourful nights’ out Dublin has ever seen.

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