The Beauty Queen of Leenane
by Martin McDonagh
Bardic Theatre, Donaghmore, Feb 2002
Director Sean Faloon / Set Design Stuart Marshall / Lighting Design John Riddell
About the set
The set is in two parts. A dreary-looking cottage interior that at first glance could be from the 1940s or 1950s, and a large touristy postcard of an Irish cottage possibly from the mid-sixties. They look like they should be related to each other- that, taken together, they will explain something, add up to give the audience some help in predicting the action of the play. Look closer, however and you will see that half the cottage is dirty whitewash, and the other half wallpapered, there is a TV, a modern gas cooker, a cassette-player and a new packet of 'Daz'. Electricity has been installed and there is running water. It's hard to work out exactly when this play is set. *(see note) Let's try the large postcard. Looks like a 'typical' Irish cottage. It is derived from a photograph taken by John Hinde in the late fifties. Hinde was one of the pioneers of mass-reproduced colour postcards, images which seem at first glance to be so typically Irish. In fact, Hinde had realized that in order to sell his images, he had to give people what they wanted to remember, rather than what they had actually seen. He used models, plastic flowers, fake skies and printed them all with wildly over-saturated colour. They were hugely popular. So, the postcard is not actually a reliable view of the outside of this cottage. It is more like how someone might want to remember it, from far away or later in life. Given that you cannot trust the picture-postcard view, is it safer to presume that the action you see within the play will be what it seems to be?
* The best guess is that the year is 1988. Ireland were playing in the European Football Championships that year, a fact that is alluded to by one of the characters