For its 20th anniversary revival of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Ireland’s acclaimed Druid Theatre Company will embark on a five-month long international tour of the play. This follows a hugely successful tour in Ireland: I attended the performance in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre and was truly blown away by this incredible black comedy - a deeply harrowing yet incredibly hilarious performance.
The play takes us into the lives of Maureen and Mag Folan, a 40-year-old woman and her aging, overbearing mother, living in the isolated farmlands of Galway. Maureen is desperate for an independent life, but finds it impossible to remove herself from the position of mother’s minder. The sharp and sarcastic tongues on both women mad the play an absolute delight to watch, and we were hooked as they brought us down some deeper, more disturbing roads. At some moments the theater was brimming with uproarious laughter, dropping jaws, and gasps of shock, and at others, the silence and tension was so palpable that you could cut it with a knife.
The performance’s director Garry Hynes won a Tony Award for Direction for the production, and Druid Co-Founder Marie Mullen returns to the stage as Mag, the mother, after winning a Tony for her 1998 performance of Maureen, the daughter. Aisling O’Sullivan plays an incredible Maureen, and is joined by the rest of the stellar cast, Marty Rea and Aaron Monaghan, playing the roles of Pato and Ray Dooley. It’s clear that the actors are highly comfortable in the insular stage world that McDonagh created.
Award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh is best known for writing and directing In Bruges, the popular 2008 film starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, as well as other successful plays such as The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lonesome West, A Skull in Connemara, and The Pillowman. Other films include Six Shooter, Seven Psychopaths, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
After the play’s debut in 1996, the Sunday Times called it “one of the most exhilarating debuts in years...a must.” From here, a modern Irish classic was born. History was made two years later in 1998 as Druid’s production was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning four. It received the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama League Award, Drama Desk Award, was nominated for an Olivier Award and was heralded ‘the most acclaimed play of the season.’ Druid, Galway, and Martin McDonagh were the toast of the international theatre scene and won praise from the President of Ireland, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and were guests on Rosie O’Donnell.
While all versions of the play have been acclaimed across the world, Druid’s remains the definitive production. The New York Times said: “Sometimes you don’t even know what you’ve been craving until the real thing comes along.”
The play will tour coast-to-coast for 16 weeks across the United States, including a stop in New York’s BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), before traveling to the prestigious Hong Kong Arts Festival. The Brooklyn Academy of Music presents the best of cutting edge, contemporary performance, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane will be a season highlight.
The tour kicks off with a six week run at Center Theatre Group’s Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles between November 9 and December 18. It will return to the US in the new year with its BAM debut in New York between January 11 and February 4. Next it will move onto Arts Emerson in Boston between February 8 - 19, the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh between March 2 - 4, and then will complete its US tour in Ann Arbor, Michigan between March 9 - 11.
The final performances of the production will take place at the Hong Kong Arts Festival over Saint Patrick’s Weekend.
Garry Hynes said: “It’s thrilling to bring The Beauty Queen of Leenane to life again, two decades on, here in Galway. The first outing of the production took the world by storm and was a real whirlwind for Druid. Our audiences still speak about that experience. We’re really looking forward to revisiting it with them and having a new generation experience the production for the first time.”
The black comedy’s explosive revival has been seen by thousands of Irish audiences and has won much critical acclaim. It was described by UK’s The Observer as “stunningly performed...Garry Hynes’s direction is so fine it is invisible – as if nothing on the stage could have been other than it is.”
Hynes said of the touring plans: “I am very proud of our jam-packed schedule for the next five months, playing in some of the most prestigious theatres across America and onto Hong Kong Arts Festival. We look forward to introducing tens of thousands of new American and Hong Kong audiences to Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic masterpiece.”
I highly recommend you take advantage of this opportunity and make it to one of the stops on this tour. The play is a thought-provoking, artful masterpiece. And if theater isn’t your thing, I’d still suggest you go, if only to listen to the Western Irish accents, lingo and laugh-out-loud jokes.
Druid would also like to acknowledge the Arts Council for their support in funding the original staging of these productions and Culture Ireland for their support with touring.