John McCullagh February 4, 2007

This is the second of two articles on the plots of the plays to be performed at the forthcoming Newry Drama Festival.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a deeply disturbing play. 


It is an alarming blend of hysterical comedy, grand melodrama, horrifying violence, and the bleakest tragedy.  That said it is well worth seeing.

Set in 1989 in the small village of Leenane (pronounced leh-nan) in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, the play centres on the life of Maureen Folan, a 40-year-old virgin who is the sole caregiver to her 70 year-old mother Mag.  Two sisters have escaped into marriage and family life, but Maureen, with a history of mental illness, is trapped in a small, bleak cottage and in an overly dependent, seriously dysfunctional relationship with her mother.

In the course of the play, the Folan cottage is visited by the brothers Ray and Pato Dooley.  Many years apart in age, Ray is an irrepressible and irresponsible young man, while Pato is a middle-aged construction worker fed up with having to live and work in England in order to earn a living wage.  

The glimmer of a romance between Maureen and Pato sparks up, then sputters out with ultimately disastrous results.

The play rocketed playwright Martin McDonagh to fame at age 25 when it opened in the West End in 1996.   By 1998 he became the first playwright since William Shakespeare to have four of his plays produced professionally in London in a single season.  A school drop-out, McDonagh wrote ‘Beauty Queen’ in just eight days.

Born in London, he has become known as a great Irish playwright in spite of the fact that his knowledge of life in the rural parts of western Ireland about which he writes is based on recollections from summer vacations and the tales told by his Galway-born father.

Daragh Carville’s weird play Family Plot will also be performed on the Town Hall stage this Drama Festival.

Inside their family grave, three generations of Kerrs are dead and buried, but condemned not to rest.  They didn’t get on in life and they certainly don’t get on in death.  They continue to battle out the arguments of their lifetimes, until the youngest member of the family arrives in the grave, a fourth generation and the last of the line.  It is only with Emer’s arrival that the family begin to realise that they must accept the cost and consequences of how they lived before their story of forgotten love and shocking betrayal can finally be resolved and they can find some kind of peace.

The Festival concludes with two classic plays, the first of which is Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The play begins with the brief appearance of a trio of witches and then moves to a military camp, where the Scottish King Duncan hears the news that his generals, Macbeth and Banquo, have defeated two separate invading armies

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