Martin McDonagh’s bitter-humoured black comedy of thwarted dreams and an assault on the Irish faith in the sanctity of family is as powerful as ever.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane is now being performed 20 years after it first rocketed him to fame as an angry young Anglo-Irish playwright still only in his twenties.
Set in Leenane, a small town in Connemara, a place of rain, loneliness and boredom, where the sight of a cow loping across a field is a major event; 70-year-old Mag lives in a state of permanent combat with her resentful daughter, Maureen.
Mag Folan, the mother from hell is a bullying old gnarled hag and her daughter Maureen, bone-tired at 40, is the eternal spinster trapped as her carer, in a poisonous relationship based on mutual hatred and petty primal feuds about lumpy porridge and foul-tasting biscuits.
Maureen scents a chance of escape when she meets a local bachelor, briefly back from London, at a village shindig; and the big question is whether Mag will manage to thwart her daughter's one hope of happiness.
Martin McDonagh says: ““Beauty Queen will always be a favourite, because I think it’s a really tight play, and when it’s done right there is a sadness to it that I love. And there is a heart to it, I think, that isn’t there in a couple of the others.”
The Beauty Queen won a nomination for Best Play at the Olivier Awards in 1996 with the subsequent Broadway production winning four Tony awards.
Since then, McDonagh has been as well known for his movies as for his plays with In Bruges earning him an Oscar nomination. Most recently his play Hangmen won Best Play at this year’s Olivier Awards following its runs at the Royal Court and in the West End.