Sep 19 2016
After 20 years Druid Theatre Company is reviving ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’. Here its creator looks back
As Martin McDonagh talks about violence, furrowing his brow with deep intent, I can’t take my eyes off the knife in his hand.
“I wouldn’t say it’s sensational,” McDonagh counters, quietly but with a south London edge, as the knife traces wide arcs in the air. “I would say it’s truthful to that story.”
We are talking about The Beauty Queen of Leenane, the play that began his meteoric rise in 1996, and its famous shock factor, which would become a staple of his career in theatre and, later, film. It seems unwise to argue with him while he’s brandishing a weapon, I point out. He looks at it, edged with breakfast marmalade, laughs and returns to his point. “The jokes are as important to me as the violence and the sadness. It’s as important as anything else.”
McDonagh makes for disarming company: engaging, considered and remarkably candid. That might come as a disappointment to anyone expecting – perhaps hoping – to meet the pugnacious London-Irish young writer of 20 years ago, whom the press would cast as anything from a genius to a thug. Then in his mid-20s and in the spotlight of the world’s media, McDonagh would often slyly assist: “To be in this position is strange,” he told Fintan O’Toole in 1997, when Druid Theatre Company staged his Leenane trilogy, “because I’m coming to theatre with a disrespect for it.”
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