Minerva's Beauty Queen - dramatic confection of the highest quality

REVIEW: The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Minerva Theatre, Chichester

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 3:28 pm
Updated Saturday, 11th September 2021, 3:30 pm
Adam Best and Orla Fitzgerald in The Beauty Queen of Leenane - Photo Helen Maybanks
Adam Best and Orla Fitzgerald in The Beauty Queen of Leenane - Photo Helen Maybanks

No-one has surpassed Irish dramatist Sean O'Casey for depicting the grit, the grime and the bleak comedy of slum life during times of war and social upheaval.

But Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane captures with ruthless ease that same sense of hopelessness in a small town Irish household in County Galway.

If this latest production were a bar of chocolate it would be dark - at least 80 per cent cacao; bitter, indulgent but utterly compelling. Impossible to think of anything else until the last crumb is consumed.

A cast of four leads the audience through every emotional twist and turn of Maureen's (Orla Fitzgerald) desperate bid to find love in her forties and free herself from the apron strings of her ever demanding mother Mag (Ingrid Craigie).

Adam Best provides the love interest as Pato but with Shakespearean star-crossed-lover plot undertones, a misplaced letter of love intervenes with violent consequences.

Not that this story is nearly as predictable as Romeo and Juliet.

Just when you think you have a compass setting on the direction of travel you find yourself hurtling elsewhere.

The humour is drawn with precision engineering, but at its heart this a powerful emotional rollercoaster and the enduring theme of mental illness could not be more apposite for the current age.

The cast, completed by Ray (Kwaku Fortune) simply shimmers in the tiny Minerva studio - this is dramatic confection of the highest quality indeed.

Gary Shipton