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Posts Tagged ‘Ingrid Craigie’

Seeing this again after 25 years made me realise what an astonishing debut it was for Martin McDonagh, then only 26. In the space of just seven years, it was followed by the other two parts of the Leenane trilogy, the first two parts of the Inishmaan trilogy (the third is unproduced but may be about to become a film) and The Pillowman. We then lost him to film, apart from 2015’s brilliant return with Hangmen and 2018’s disastrous one with A Very Very Very Dark Matter. The two Inishmaan’s have had recent successful, high profile West End outings, but this is only the second revival in London of any of the Leenane’s since the Young Vic mounted it in 2010 and its great to see it again.

Spinster Maureen lives with her mother Mag in a remote cottage in County Galway. Their relationship is brittle. Maureen’s two sisters have escaped and she’s left to care for her mother, which she resents. She’s 40 and has missed out on life. Mag expects her to wait on her, but Maureen’s resentment leads to cruelty. When neighbour Pato returns from London, Maureen smells freedom, but Mag sees desertion and they both try to out-manipulate the other. It all ends in tears, of course. Bloody families.

It’s superbly plotted and the tension builds brilliantly to it’s tragic conclusion. It’s very dark but totally believable. There were moments when I had to turn my head. Director Rachel O’Riorden’s production starts slowly but broodingly, then draws you in and grips you. Ingrid Craigie and Orla Fitzgerald are simply brilliant as Mag and Maureen, sparring incessantly, though the mother – daughter bond never completely disappeared. Adam Best and Kwaku Fortune provide excellent support. The design by partnership Good Teeth Theatre is seedy and gothic, providing an atmospheric setting for what unfolds.

I now so want to see A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West again. Someone? Please?

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I much admire Daniel Radcliffe’s post-Potter bravery in selecting stage roles. First he got his kit off in Equus, ten he put his head in the lion’s den of a big Broadway musical, now a black comedy where he has to transform himself into a disabled Irish boy!

It’s 10 years since we lost Martin McDonough to film, 12 since the last of his Irish comedies and 16 years since this was produced at the NT. I’d almost forgotten how original, how dark and how funny these plays were and this revival proves it.

It’s 1934 in a small West Ireland village when news arrives that a Hollywood director is coming to make a documentary on an offshore island. Crippled orphan Billy, adopted by the Osbourne spinsters, tells a lie to get Babbybobby to take him with fellow teenagers Helen & Bartley to seek fame. Billy does indeed end up in California (without returning from the island to collect the passport he already has, presumably!)  for a screen test;  unforgivable in Helen’s eyes, something he discovers on his return. The humour is ever so dark and even more shocking in the even more politically correct 21st century, the story twists and turns satisfying and the 2.5 hours rush by.

The casting is impeccable. Ingrid Craigie & Gillian Hanna are marvellous as the sisters. There’s a terrific turn as the local gossip with a wonderful name, Johnnypateenmike, from Pat Shortt. Sarah Greene is superb as feisty red-head bully Helen, as is Conor MacNeill as her put-upon brother Bartley. We even get another of June Watson’s delicious cameos as Johnnypateenmike’s Ma. So, it’s no star vehicle. It’s hard to see behind the iconic film character, but I did much admire Radcliffe’s performance as Billy. His accent holds up well against the others, all of whom seem to be native, and he sustains a believable deformity throughout.

Great to see a McDonough play again, great to see this fine young actor continue to stretch himself and great to see the Michael Grandage season continue to provide us with quality like this. Off you go…..

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