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Theatre Review by Leonard Miller
What: The Leenane Trilogy
Where: fortyfivedownstairs
When: 28th May - 15th June
Produced by the Kin Collective
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Declan Eames, David Cameron and John Banas
Performed by Michala Banas, Linc Hasler, Noni Hazelhurst, Dylan Watson, Tom Barton, Chris Bunsworth, Marg Downey, Pete Reid, Dean Cartmel, Mark Diaco, Laura Maitland and James O’Connell
Martin McDonagh is something of a wunderkind playwright. At only 44, he is remarkably accomplished with successful film adaptations, West End and Broadway productions and Laurence Olivier and Critics’ Circle Theatre awards under his belt. In staging the entirety of his trilogy of plays set in and around the Irish coastal village of Leenane, the Kin Collective has made an ambitious choice which succeeds in doing justice to his well wrought epic.
The first play of the three is The Beauty Queen of Leenane. This is the stand-out of the three. The performances are beautifully drawn with Noni Hazelhurst and Michala Banas shining particularly brightly as the disaffected and dysfunctional mother and daughter. There is nuance and movement to the work and the hand of a skilled director is evident. Declan Eames has found the pathos and the pace of the script and elicited a moving portrayal of rural Ireland from his performers.
Next up, A Skull in Connemara, is a portrait of a broken man in a broken community. Chris Bunsworth is convincing and there is a complexity to his menacing portrayal of the grave digging Mick Dowd. Marg Downey is almost unrecognizable as the sly old biddy Mary Rafferty, and gives us a performance full of wit and humanity. David Cameron has directed this work sympathetically with the script and the trilogy as a whole; It is competent and enjoyable. It is only the occasional slip from the thick Irish accent from this cast that slightly tarnishes an otherwise slick and funny play.
The final offering is The Lonesome West. Mark Diaco and James O’Connell play a pair of warring brothers in the aftermath of their father’s suspicious death. McDonagh’s script holds up and is real, funny and thought-provoking. Director, John Banas has created a believable physicality on stage and drawn much from the script and the performers. The Lonesome West is the weakest of the three however. Dean Cartmel delivers a strong Father Welsh but seems miscast as the alcoholic and depressed priest, and while Laura Maitland’s accent was as clear and strong as her characterization, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast.
Seeing all three plays together is a treat. McDonagh’s scripts are clever and reference without relying on each other. Each part can be enjoyed independently, but the experience is made richer when these interwoven references can be understood and appreciated fully. Casey-Scott Corless’ set is an honest rendering of the world of Leenane and an elegant solution to staging the three pieces on one stage.
A bold venture by a young company that pays off, The Leenane Trilogy is sure to entertain and unsettle in the right proportions.
4.5 stars