Sunday, 18 May 2014

Highlights of the Adjudication of Peterborough Theatre Guild's The Beauty Queen of Leenane

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Notes from the adjudication by Bea Quarrie of Peterborough Theatre Guild's production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh.  (Spoilers ahead)
  • Bea began by explaining that Peterborough is her home community, and Peterborough Theatre Guild is the theatre where she works; she has not spoken with members of the company since it entered the Eastern Ontario Drama League Festival; she saw the show in Peterborough, but is responding only to what she saw last night
  • Questions for actors and director
  • Mag: Are you mentally ill, senile, malevolent? Why so angry inside?
  • Maureen: How addicted is she to dysfunctional mother and dysfunction about her? Where did you go after burning Mag’s hand? What keeps you from leaving? Why do you turn on Pato when he tells you to put your clothes on?
    Alex Saul and Patricia Young in
    Peterborough Theatre Guild's The Beauty Queen of Leenane
    Photo by Theresa James
  • Pato: What attracted you to her? What was the key to the character for you?
  • Ray: What is the string-ball about? Are you from the shallow end of the gene pool, or are you the product of Irish poverty? Why so loutish?
  • Director: Why this play, why now, what drew you to it?
  • Martin McDonagh has written a play that has us shifting our sympathies; he doesn’t spare anything in his work, has a savage violence, exposes us and leaves us bare, no mercy in it
  • Set: Time and place is an Ireland cottage, did it feel oppressive enough? It was run down, but was it still too charming?
  • Avoided play’s traps: If Mag has no redeeming qualities, we would have no empathy
  • Mag is like Ireland itself: loathe to let her children go; she plays the victim in spite of actually being one
  • Ray has the potential to rely on yelling and broad gestures; actor avoided that trap so that we saw exasperation and frustration
  • Director had wanted to do Lieutenant of Inishmore first, tech demands had him shying away from it; someone told him about a violent play you laugh all the way through, and he wanted to read that – he connected to the humanity in it
  • Mag isn’t mentally ill, she’s a victim, abandoned and not well-parented herself, rescued Maureen from the loony bin because no one else would; she exemplifies tyranny of the weak, getting what she wants through her weaknesses
  • Maureen: Failed in England, stuck now in Ireland; turns on Pato because he is going to leave anyway; what she’s learned is how to cope by burying herself in drudgery; she is addicted to dysfunction and will do all sorts of things to get at her
  • Mag is seeking respectability: says she is waiting for the news while watching terrible soap operas
  • Pato responds to her mystery; wondered why he invites her – because she is unavailable; character offers Maureen and audience hope that someone will get out of this situation; actor didn’t play role as attractive cypher with an idealized look
  • Beautiful transition of Pato writing letter to Ray waiting at the table to deliver it
  • Blackouts in scene changes gave us breathing room, but “gremlins in black” changing the set takes us out of the action; difficulty is that text demands particular changes and sometimes they cannot be avoided
  • Mag’s wig: Looked Flintstones or Norman Bates’ Mother; they weren’t happy with it but they couldn’t find a better one; it wasn’t large for the makeup effect when she is killed, but they justified it as the character letting her hair go (what about a wig that looks like Maureen cuts her hair?)
  • Poker – introduction creates expectation that it will be used
  • Deceptively simple storytelling; there are significant subtle revelations
  • Play is part of confrontational theatre tradition: in your face, provocative, doesn’t hold back, more of a European theatre tradition
  • Took courage to do this show – wouldn’t sell well; they performed twice this week as a pre-Festival warm-up, “audience was small but they both enjoyed it”
  • Ray: He’s a lot of talk; Pato is his father figure, will do anything for him; doesn’t know any better because he has no experience with better behaviour; will do anything but doesn’t mean he will do it well
  • Ray had an incredible physical presence on stage, movement with poker was always unpredictable action, a visual symbol of threat of violence; he is a product of his environment, rooted in ignorance
  • He sees himself as inoffensive, even if he is the most offensive person in the play; doesn’t see the need to change
  • Maureen: What would have happened if she received the letter? There could have been a happy ending; Believes that she did get to the station, since he wasn’t there she went into a fugue
Bea closed the adjudication by reflecting on all four shows – she was heartened by this week’s company: theatre is thriving with graciousness, class, and integrity

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