Tag Archives: Hull Truck Theatre

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane


Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Reviewed – 31st October 2019



“From the banal domesticity of the outset, Mark Babych’s direction creates an atmosphere of eerie foreboding”


As the rain pours down on an isolated cottage in the hills of Connemara, the fate of 40-year-old Maureen who lives with her mother, Mag, unravels in a compelling story of bitterness, hope and disillusion. Their hardened relationship of resentful co-dependence is threatened when an old friend, Pato, turns up unexpectedly and offers Maureen a new life. Refusing to be abandoned by her one constancy, Mag has no qualms about trying to prevent her daughter from leaving, but with drastic repercussions.

Martin McDonagh’s first play and part of the ‘Leenane Trilogy’, ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’, was his theatrical breakthrough in 1996. Inspired by the life and language he was immersed in during childhood summers in his father’s hometown, it is a masterpiece of plot and role enmeshment. The tragicomedy flows naturally from the Irish idiom and spirit, describing the trials and tribulations of a bleak existence but with a sharp, funny edge. From the banal domesticity of the outset, Mark Babych’s direction creates an atmosphere of eerie foreboding, the stifling timelessness of confinement is contrasted with the breezy dream of escape. This is reinforced in Sara Perks’ creative, detailed set, with the thick, cut-down walls revealing the wide, open sky, and Jess Addinall’s dramatic lighting design.

As the conversations develop, the layers are peeled back to reveal the complex balance of close-knit families, each very different person irrevocably bonded by the past. Maggie McCarthy is an unnervingly sinister Mag, swaying from needy elderly mother to remorseless manipulator. The charming yet sensitive Pato is played by Nicholas Boulton, with a genuinely moving show of affection for Maureen but, as the hidden conflicts of her character gradually surface she becomes ever more challenging; in an impassioned performance by Siobhan O’Kelly, Maureen faces the reality of the life she leads. Laurence Pybus is excellent as Pato’s slow-witted yet coltish brother, Ray, whose restless chatter and behaviour appears both comic and disturbing.

This production, in collaboration with Hull Truck Theatre, re-establishes the roots of McDonagh’s talent for dark comedy and reflects his innate feeling for the film genre which he successfully moved into later. The immaculate set and lighting have a cinematic quality and the direction, particularly at the end, draws on this. It is only at the culminating point that we lose connection due to the distance from the stage and the moment is not as chilling as it could be. In addition, the music and sound by Adam McCready, which generally fit this style, occasionally come across – particularly between scenes – quite oversized for such an intimate atmosphere. With accomplished, subtly powerful acting ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’ hooks the audience into the corrosive, emotional entanglement with suspense and engaging wit.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Ian Hodgson


The Beauty Queen Of Leenane

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 16th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Rope | ★★★★ | February 2018
The Game of Love and Chai | ★★★ | April 2018
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert | ★★★ | May 2018
Abi | ★★★★ | September 2018
Abigail’s Party | ★★★½ | September 2018
Once | ★★★★★ | October 2018
Haunting Julia | ★★ | November 2018
The Hired Man | ★★★ | April 2019
As You Like It | ★★★★ | August 2019


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Interview – Niall Ransome



It is estimated that around 100,000 children run away from home every year. Niall Ransome, member of Olivier Award winning Mischief Theatre Company, explores this important issue in FCUK’D: an alternative show for the festive period, dealing with abandonment, loyalty, family, and the real experiences of young working-class lads in Britain today.

FCUK’D tells the brutal and heartfelt story of a teenage boy who kidnaps his younger brother in an attempt to flee his decrepit council flat and escape his daily encounters with the authorities. This one-man show, written entirely in verse, switches between the innocence of childhood and the very real struggle of being fcuk’d by an unfair system.

With only each other to rely on and with nowhere to turn, the boys must keep on the move to avoid being found and the consequences that this entails.



We spoke to director and writer Niall Ransome about the show …

FCUK’D has already been to a few places in the past year including the Vault and Brick Lane Festivals – have you made any changes to the show since these?

Absolutely! What’s been great about performing the show a few times before is being able to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s grown from a 15 min monologue to an hour long piece. I’ve always looked for the best way to tell this story and think the show we have now for the Bunker is very exciting!

You’re more known for comedy roles and being part of the Mischief Theatre Company than as a writer of a dramatic work such as FCUK’D – do you see yourself following a particular path in the future or do you prefer the variety?

I’ve always liked variety to be honest. Since leaving drama school I have primarily done comedy and working with Mischief for years has been fantastic. But there are other avenues I want to explore. I grew up watching plays in Northern theatres like the Hull Truck and Stephen Joseph and it’s been nice to return to that with FCUK’D. There’s a lot that interests me.

Will Mytum is ‘one to watch’ – currently making a name for himself, what made you choose him for the show?

I’ve been friends with Will for years and always thought of passing the role onto him when I couldn’t do it anymore! He’s a fantastic actor and brilliant to work with. Being a Northern lad himself I knew he’d connect to the piece a lot more and having moved to London at the same time we both know what it’s like to have left it behind. I’m excited to have him on-board.

The show deals with some quite heavy issues – is it hard to express such topics clearly in verse rather than as a traditional play?

Not really, the verse sort of came naturally. I’ve always loved poetry and Hull has such a rich history with poets such as Philip Larkin and Stevie Smith that it sort of fits. I find it a nice way to write, it sort of rolls out onto the page then you can stretch it out and play with the words. I focus on the characters and the story most of all. The issues come through that, it’s important that the stories and characters are at the forefront which I think helps the audience understand the issues on a deeper level than if they were just reading a pamphlet.

The show is the story of two brothers – is there a reason why it’s presented then as a one man performance?

I think one of the beautiful things about theatre is its ability to suspend an audience’s belief. If the audience have the opportunity to imagine their own Mattie (the little brother) it’s makes the end all the more personal and sad. It’s exciting that by the end of the play the audience can see him although there’s nothing there! You invite an audience to play an active part!


Three words to describe the show ?

Fast, proud and bold.

What are your hopes for the show after The Bunker?

We’ll have to wait and see! We’re quite keen to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe and we have a few people coming to see the show at the Bunker. I think it’s a piece that could really benefit from moving around. I think it’s an important story.

Do you feel that the government and society in general could be doing more to assist in issues such as those raised in FCUK’D?

Absolutely, as long as issues are still being talked about they are issues. 100,000 children run away from home each year, of course these are for a number of reasons but if those children are running away from abuse or lack of care more must be done to ensure they are given the love and support they deserve.

What do you hope the audience takes away with them?

I hope it makes them think a bit more about how we view others from different backgrounds. There is still a huge stigma in class and I believe we don’t always take time to understand the full story. I hope they can enjoy the play and relate to the characters.

On a lighter note, how will you be spending Christmas this year and what are your hopes for 2018?

I’m still in Comedy About a Bank Robbery until February so will be doing that as well as FCUK’D then will be back into auditions. We have plans to take FCUK’D on and I’m currently writing my second play.


Niall was talking to thespyinthestalls.com







is at The Bunker 11th – 30th December

click on the image below for further details