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April 2004
The Beauty Queen of Leenane- Unicorn Theatre - Abingdon
The path doesn't run smoothly for Maureen & Pato
The path doesn't run smoothly for Maureen & Pato

Abingdon Drama Club
The Beauty Queen of Leenane

Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon

Wednesday March 31 - Saturday 3 April, 7.30 pm

 

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By Susan Biggin

Abingdon Drama Club has chosen a dark Irish comedy as one of its Diamond Jubilee productions. McDonagh's first play, premiered in Galway in 1996, explores despondency and violence, tempering a vicious darkness of the author's own design with the rural cheer and humour of the classic Irish play.

Although born and bred in London, McDonagh is of Irish stock and his veins clearly run thick with Galway blood. These contrasting cultures meet head on in this play, set on Ireland's west coast, in Leenane village, in Connemara.

The disquieting story follows a sour, domineering mother, Mag, and her daughter, Maureen. No longer young, Maureen has the chance of a new life with a "stray man", Pato, who dubs her the Beauty Queen of Leenane. Self-absorbed and isolated, Mag obstructs her daughter's happiness, and manipulates events to her own ends. But Maureen has inherited some vindictive gene, and the two are condemned to spiteful rounds of constant sniping, with macabre outcome.

This play was written in just over a week, during McDonagh's time as a 25-year old writer in residence at London's National Theatre. First of the "Leenane Trilogy", it won a string of accolades on Broadway in 1998.

The play's cast of just four, coupled with the single set, suit it well to modest venues. Maureen takes the lion's part, and tonight gave a reality performance, enhanced by her reality Galway accent. The support crew also played their parts - the Kennedy photo, the steaming kettle, the running tap, and even the interval's Guinness to beguile the audience still further.

This local drama club played out the intrigues and ironies of this provocative piece of Irish theatre most convincingly. Well worth sampling, it runs till Saturday in this final week of the 7th Abingdon Arts Festival.

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