M uch has changed in Ireland since the premiere of the Martin McDonagh's 1996 black comedy, but the ramshackle Connemara hill where this savage mother-daughter psychodrama takes place feels both petrified in perpetual darkness and newly, terribly, resonating.
This corner of Leenane - smelly, wastelabeled and inhabited by the left-behind - seems to be in a state of existential confinement and each character emanates from claustrophobic isolation. Maureen (Orla Fitzgerald), the middle-aged virgin living a ball and chain existence with her mother Mag (Ingrid Craigie) is her tortured heart, plagued with rage and resentment towards the scheming and needy mag.
This is a close and neat co-production by Le theâtre du Chichester Festival and the Lyric Hammersmith, directed by Rachel O 'Riordan with Fitzgerald as the dominant and angry presence, her position in the world defined by small victories over her mother.
Craigie 's Mag is conspicuously modest and quietly manipulative, but lacks the bite that might otherwise putfire to their chemistry. The play comes to life when Pato (Adam Best), a construction worker from out of town, steps into Maureen's life. The "morning after " scene in which Mag finds her daughter flaunting her sexual conquest is both nauseating and tender.
As a slice Irish gothic, she is at her best when the characters expose their vulnerabilities rather than storming with rage or applying violence. Fitzgerald gets stronger as she begins to keep her outer layers hard and expose her frailties.
The romance between Pato and Maureen has a whiff of sexual desire and Tennessee Williams' escape dreams, with some good plays between Best and Fitzgerald. When Pato reads her letter to Maureen, speaking of her own loneliness and her desire for connection, she is interpreted so powerfully by Best that she threatens to distract completely.emotion of the mother-daughter drama.
Despite the grime inside the cottage, the set design of the Good Teeth Theater contains poetry with its backdrop of 'images - the leaves, the trees and the sky - and the hustle and bustle of time in the sound of Anna Clock the design brings an atmosphere.
It all starts to seem slightly schematic as the drama takes its baroque turns, emotional development replaced by a plot whose artifices we see coming. It's a shame when we go from psychodrama to "psycho " drama (fireside poker is the key) but the limits of the narrative are exceeded by some moving performances and we end up with the raw image of Maureen, in her mother's chair, stranded in dismal similarity.