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The Beauty Queen of Leenane is an intimate look at the dysfunctional balance between co-dependence and self-interest in the relationship between a daughter (in her 40s) and mother (just turned 70) who have lived together in an isolated Irish house for 20 years. The play’s events unfold over a short period of time and are sparked by a rare romantic opportunity for the daughter.
It is suggested that both of the characters have struggled with mental illness, although the credibility of this is questionable as it is something that each of the women says of the other, and the play proves both women are capable of lying. Kirsten Slenning’s portrayal of the daughter and Tanja Dixon-Warren’s of the mother are masterful. Their characters have an ambiguous credibility when switching between displays of strength and vulnerability, that made it hard to read when the characters were affecting behaviours or being genuine with one another. It kept the audience guessing their true motives and true potential to great success.
The unchanging, well-used set pieces are the perfect backdrop for the familiar yet unstable relationship between the house’s inhabitants. The stage is full of furniture yet does not feel cluttered or crowded. It is only once the characters’ movements, emotions, and histories infuse the space that the house begins to feel stifling and unable to accommodate these two women. A sense of confinement became palpable in the second half, and the production had a tone of restlessness, which I found contagious; I knew I was waiting for something to happen next, but I just couldn’t foresee how the play would end.
Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane runs at the Jericho Arts Centre until August 15.
Missed the Mark for Sonja:
~ reviewed by Sonja Cvoric
A form of foreshadowing. If an object is introduced early on in the play, it will make a necessary (and usually dramatic) reappearance later in the play. The 19th Century playwright, Anton Chekhov used this technique to great effect in one of his plays where a gun is shown in the first act, and fired by the end, hence the name for this technique.
We'd love to hear from you!
Please comment on the review, the show if you see it, or pick from one of the following conversation starters:
1. How do you think your relationship with your mother would (d)evolve over time if you shared a small house in an isolated neighbourhood for twenty years? (Now imagine this with no internet.)
2. What are some of the best (and worst) things your mom has to say about you?
2a. What about what you have to say about your mom?
2b. Has this been consistent or changed over time?
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