Ensemble Theatre Company
6th Annual Summer Repertory Festival

Dates and Venue July 12 - Aug 17th, 2018 | Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street, Vancouver

Director Kathleen Duborg Assistant Director Shelby Bushell Scenic Design Stephanie Wong Costume Design Julie White Lighting Design Patrick J. Smith Sound Design Javier Sotres Props Design Josina de Bree Dialect Coach Brian C. Parkinson Stage Manager Samantha Paras

Reviewer John Jane

Toxic mother - daughter relationships are generally few and far between, but they certainly aren’t unique. Mag Folan (Tanja Dixon-Warren) and Maureen Folan’s (Kirsten Slenning) relationship has broken down, with little love, respect or any positive feelings worthy of salvaging. Set in Leenane, a village in County Galway, Martin McDonagh's kitchen drama, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is both creepy and comic.

Maureen, the younger half of the relationship, is a forty-something virgin grudgingly confined to be her mother’s caregiver. She sees her opportunities of escaping the internment rapidly slipping away. The term “beauty queen” is an epithet bestowed on her one and only admirer Pato Dooley. Mag, a frumpy, cantankerous septuagenarian, seems to survive on tea and ComplanTM (a powdered milk energy drink), but nonetheless seems able to do much more for herself than she attempts.

The only other characters are local brothers Pato and Ray Dooley (Ashley O’Connell and Francis Winter). Ray is the type who appears incapable of catching cold in an ice storm. His lack of diligence is instrumental in one of the play’s critical junctures.

Ray is given a letter from Pato expressing his fondness of Maureen, with explicit instructions to deliver it personally to only her. However, when he comes to the house, Maureen is out. Mag persuades him to leave the letter with her, playing on his laziness and resentment of Maureen. When Ray leaves, she reads the letter, and then burns it; meaning that, possibly her last chance for love is derailed.

Kirsten Slenning is convincing as the desperate Maureen. Her appearance is dumbed-down for this role, but not to the extent that it would seem incongruous to attract a local yokel like Pato. It’s too bad her voice barely projected beyond the front row. To a lesser extent, it was also a problem with other actors.

Tanja Dixon-Warren is absolutely believable as the malevolent mother. From the time we see her hobbling across the stage in the first scene, we just know that she wouldn’t get cards on Mother’s Day.

Stephanie Wong’s set is almost like a fifth character. The vision of dingy digs waiting for you as you enter the auditorium from the opulent, tree-lined streets of Kitsilano makes it all the more surreal. Patrick J. Smith’s lighting is inconsistent. Some scenes are so dimly light that it is impossible to discern the actor’s expressions. Javier Sotres’ sound design is appealing, especially if you like the music of the Pogues.

Ensemble Theatre Company presents its Annual Summer Repertory Festival with a selection of three plays: Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men, Ian Rankin's Dark Road and this play from Martin McDonagh.

© 2018 John Jane