See review in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
To stage the trilogy of plays that launched the career of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, The Pillowman) is an ambitious project, especially for an independent theatre company. If the KIN Collective’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane is any guide, you should rush to snap up tickets to all three.
McDonagh’s imagination can be morbid, violent and grotesque. He has the darkest kind of sensibility – so dark it doesn’t feel right to call The Beauty Queen of Leenane a “black comedy”. The play’s utterly classical sense of structure, and the blighted rural Irish lives he draws, might place it closer to tragedy, but that doesn’t feel quite right either. Even “tragicomedy” would feel like an evasion.
No question you’re in the presence of a formidable drama, though, and some superb acting. The abusive relationship at the heart of the play is a gift for performers. Noni Hazlehurst and Michala Banas dominate the stage as Mag and Maureen Folan, a mother and daughter bound together by mutual loathing and need.
If there’s any justice Hazlehurst will win some sort of award for this star turn. The detail and presence she brings to the wounded, malicious, manipulative old matriarch are just staggering. She sits in her armchair like a noxious toad, consuming every atom of available oxygen.