The Beauty Queen of Leenane
Made in Colchester
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Saturday 23rd November 2013
Martin McDonagh's 1996 black comedy, which follows the relationship between 40-year-old virgin Maureen and her wily mother in Ireland's County Galway, marks the second partnership between the Mercury and Curve Leicester after the success of The Hired Man earlier this year.
The Irish scene is set from the very start, the stage being showered with a torrent of rain; an impressive effect on the thrust stage. The lighting plot throughout is perfectly pitched - as is so regularly the case at the Mercury - to suggest the shifts in time and atmosphere, with intricate detail right down to both the hearth and stove fires adding a realism to the farmhouse kitchen.
The success of this piece rests in the central performances, and the relationship built between the two lead actresses is exemplary. Michele Moran plays Maureen with an unspecified edge from the outset, which is so expertly developed by the time the character's back story is revealed that we can utterly believe her continued demise. Her devious and unlikable mother Mags is played with a delicate menace by Nora Connolly, and the rapport built between them is built with a careful mix of familiarity and spark to create the depth of hatred required. The comedy is unarguably black, although there are moments of genuine humour and even warmth through the first act that by the final climax have developed into a chilling darkness.
An accomplished and entertaining production, brought expertly to life by the talented team of professionals at the Mercury and a cast who excel in their ideally cast roles.