Tag Archives: The Tower Theatre

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane

★★★★

The Tower Theatre

Beauty Queen Of Leenane

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane

The Tower Theatre

Reviewed – 7th November 2019

★★★★

 

“Waggott’s ability to balance frailty and seeming harmlessness with taloned cruelty is quite spectacular”

 

Martin McDonagh has made quite a name for himself in the past few years as a connoisseur of pitch-black humour and crooked characters. Whilst he’s become a household name for major screenplays such as In Bruges and Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, his ability to make an entire audience laugh at the most heinous crimes, and then to gasp at their own inhumanity, is showcased most spectacularly in the theatre.

Having climbed to such great heights as casting Jim Broadbent in the starring role of his most recent West End production, A Very Very Very Dark Matter, it’s quite a treat to go back to McDonagh’s first play and see where he began, and indeed where his twisted sense of humour and humanity first came to fruition.

At forty years old, Maureen (Julia Flatley) still lives with her seemingly ailing mother, Mag (Amanda Waggott), in Leenane, a small Irish village. Embittered by the cards she’s been dealt, Maureen spends her days snapping at her mother and telling her of her fantasies of finding her corpse on the kitchen table. Mag seems little concerned by her daughter’s misery and isolation, and appears to want her to stay forever, regardless.

But at a party at the neighbours’, Maureen reconnects with an old crush, the neighbours’ son Pato (Nick Cannon), and she dares to wonder that there might be a way out of her miserable and lonely existence after all. That is if her mother doesn’t have anything to say on the matter.

The set (Philip Ley) is detailed but traditional, allowing the psychological gymnastics of the script, rather than an overly complex design, to do the talking. The entire story takes place in Maureen and Mag’s kitchen-living room, the room in which they spend the majority of their days, and you can feel the sense of crushing claustrophobia by which Maureen is tormented, and which Mag depends upon, like a crusty old corset.

Waggott’s ability to balance frailty and seeming harmlessness with taloned cruelty is quite spectacular, and Flatley is an equally armed adversary. There’s a natural desire to find the villain in this story, but both are so twisted and yet so tormented, it’s impossible to pick a side.

In stark contrast, Cannon’s open-faced, sweet nature seems completely foreign in this household. Bringing a little levity to the plot, he’s a pleasant reminder that this room isn’t the whole world, and that not everyone is full of rancor and vitriol.

Simon Brooke, playing Pato’s petulant younger brother, is plenty energetic, but he could do with toning it down a tiny bit, just so that when he’s really losing his patience, or being especially sulky, we can tell.

For the first half, I don’t know that I saw much of what I have come to recognise as McDonagh hallmarks, but as the story unravels, so too does the web of miseries and mishaps, and, most disquietingly, somehow we’re laughing at it all. The Beauty Queen of Leenane, as directed by Colette Dockery, is perhaps more subtle than his most recent works, but it is just as disturbingly sadistic, and perniciously potent.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Robert Piwko

 


The Beauty Queen Of Leenane

The Tower Theatre until 16th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
To Kill a Mockingbird | ★★★½ | October 2018
Table | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Seagull | ★★★ | November 2018
Talk Radio | ★★★½ | March 2019
Happy Days | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Little Light | ★★★ | June 2019

 

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Little Light
★★★

The Tower Theatre

Little Light

Little Light

The Tower Theatre

Reviewed – 20th June 2019

★★★

 

“A well-acted piece in a fascinating venue, although I’m not sure that the play is quite ready to remove its water wings”

 

When you announce to folk that you’re off to see a play in a disused swimming pool, you get some funny looks. But here, in the depths of the new Tower Theatre building, the splendidly named Humble Crumble and Loitering With Intent theatre companies plunged in with Alice Birch’s Little Light in support of the Mental Health Foundation and that is to be applauded.

The story is of a family reunion that takes place at the same time every year in a house by the sea. The same people attend, the exact same meal is eaten, the same wine drunk and the same rituals take place at exactly the same point in proceedings. Married couple Teddy and Alison are the hosts with Alison’s sister Clarissa the other invited guest. When Clarissa turns up heavily pregnant and with boyfriend Simon in tow, frayed tempers snap and the whole gathering goes horribly wrong.

The set (Poppy Crumpton) had a simple wooden table and chairs, when Simon arrives and he is finally offered a seat, it is child size so that his chin sits on the table, a visual gag lifted straight from Ayckbourn’s Table Manners. There is also a square hole in the floor, with a stepladder leading down to a lower level which all actors negotiated most nimbly. The only backing sound came at random times with a weird vibrating noise and apart from Teddie saying “Can anybody hear that” was never fully explained. Lights (Hugo Dodsworth) faded in and out, but considering the title and theme of the play, I would have liked to have seen a little more creativity.

The audience were sat in a kind of ‘T’ shape and this presented a tricky problem for director (Shani Erez). Although the cast moved around well, you were so close to the performance space that I often found myself staring straight into the back of one of the actors. Performances were very strong; Teddy (Eoin Bentick) seemed highly unstable and you expected him to snap at any point. Alison (Hannah Madison) spat each of her lines out with a sarcastic venom and is not somebody that I would ever want myself to be in a locked room with. Clarissa (Hannah Donelon) seemed at first to want to be initiating change, but ended up almost seeming like the most manic of the lot. Outsider Simon (Keeran Blessie) looked like he was going to be cheery and positive, but ended up talking over people that he had never met before, as if he was one of the family. I would have liked to have seen a little more contrast.

Grief is a horrific trauma that we will all have to deal with and it is absolutely right that the theatre does not shy away from this subject. But ninety minutes of family squabbling, sentences not being finished and vicious vindictiveness can be difficult to sit through, whatever the reason. I wish that Little Light had found some space for a bit more light, as relief from the dark subject matter that we were dealing with. This may have helped you connect with the characters  more and encouraged you to share their grief.

A well-acted piece in a fascinating venue, although I’m not sure that the play is quite ready to remove its water wings.

 

Reviewed by Chris White

 


Little Light

The Tower Theatre until 22nd June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
To Kill a Mockingbird | ★★★½ | October 2018
Table | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Seagull | ★★★ | November 2018
Talk Radio | ★★★½ | March 2019
Happy Days | ★★★★★ | April 2019

 

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