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Martin McDonagh's 'Beauty Queen' for Little Theatre

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 15th February, 2012 5:15pm

All eyes will be set on Athlone Little Theatre at the end of this month as the group embarks on an exciting new production of Martin McDonagh's classic 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane.'

Under the inspired direction of Paddy Martin, this fantastic, richly funny, brooding black comedy opens at the Theatre from Sunday, February 26 next until Friday, March 2.

Interest is certain to be huge for this absorbing production, which features some of the most accomplished performers in the Midlands, including Anne Hoey, Tina O'Hara, Ronan Flynn and Dermot McManus.

Part of the celebrated Leenane Trilogy, Martin McDonagh's play entered the annals of Irish theatre classics almost immediately when it was first staged by Druid in 1996. It went on to a record breaking run in New York, winning a host of Tony and Critics' Circle awards and firmly cementing the reputation of its young writer as one of Ireland's leading theatrical voices.

As with many of John B Keane's finest plays, the darkness of much of its subject matter hasn't prevented Irish audiences from taking 'Beauty Queen' firmly to their hearts. Maureen is a troubled, restless middle aged woman who finds one last unlikely chance for happiness in the arms of the softly spoken Pato.

The problem is that Maureen is a home carer for her ailing, yet devilishly manipulative mother Mag.

If Maureen goes off with Pato, who will be around to stir the lumps out of Mag's complan?

The dark interplay between grown up daughter and elderly mother forms much of the heart of a play that is by turns hilarious, fascinating and savage.

Critics still wonder how McDonagh, a 26 year old who had lived most of his life in London, could capture something so visceral about the heart of rural Ireland.

As the lonely Maureen, multiple award winning actress Anne Hoey takes on another of the great Irish stage roles in what continues to be a peerless theatrical career.

She is matched blow for blow by the excellent Tina O' Hara as the ruthless, yet also unsettlingly vulnerable Mag. Ronan Flynn is pitch perfect as Pato, in a role first made famous by the Oscar nominated Brian F. O' Byrne.

Extensive light relief is provided by Pato's hyper, heedless young brother Ray, whose character seems to have wandered into Leenane from another, far more modern era.

His interaction with Maureen and Mag places the play - despite its traditional subject matter - firmly in the now, with its sense of generations uneasily coexisting yet knowing nothing of each other.

As Ray, the lavishly talented Dermot McManus plays a role that could have been written for him.

With set design by Paddy Martin, construction by Dermot McManus and stage management by Marie Melia, this production promises to do absolute justice to McDonagh's masterpiece.

This meeting of the country's longest established community theatre with the London Irish Connemara magician is not to be missed.

* Early booking is essential and can be had from the Theatre at 09064 74324.

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