Chichester Festival Theatre - loving the challenge of "a difficult character"

Ingrid Craigie was in Sweet Bird in Chichester Festival Theatre’s main house a few years ago; now comes her Minerva Theatre debut in The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 8:05 am
Ingrid Craigie - Mag in Beauty Queen of Leenane - Photo Helen Maybanks
Ingrid Craigie - Mag in Beauty Queen of Leenane - Photo Helen Maybanks

A co-production between the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre, it plays the Minerva from September 3 to October 2 and then London from October 9 to November 6. And Ingrid is delighted to play two such different venues, the Lyric a Matcham theatre, the Minerva, of course, much more modern, but both giving the play the intimacy it needs.

“It is a fantastic play. I know Martin’s work obviously. I was in Cripple and we took it to Broadway. But this one he wrote when he was 25 which is unbelievable. The more we look at it, the more incredible it is. It is so beautifully written, but it doesn’t feel like a young man’s play. It feels like quite a mature person’s play. You can feel the great energy of a young man, but the relationship is so beautifully observed. It is a toxic co-dependency between an older woman and her daughter…. You really wouldn’t think of a young man writing it.”

In the mountains of Connemara, County Galway, Maureen Folan – a plain, lonely woman, tied to her manipulative and ageing mother, Mag – comes alive at her first and possibly last prospect of a new life. But Mag has other ideas, and her interference sets in motion a train of events that leads inexorably towards the play’s breath-taking conclusion.

“I have seen it before,” Ingrid says. “I had seen the original production in 1996, and it was a shock. The shock was the subversion of it. You think you are seeing one thing, but you actually you are not. He confounds expectations, I think. But the beauty is also Martin’s language, his characters, his surprises and then also the humour.

“There are four people in the play, and Mag is the older woman, in her early 70s. She lives with her single daughter, and it is a very classic situation in the country. It is set in the 1990s, and it is set in the west of Ireland at a time when the economic boom has not got here. The rest of the country was recovering and becoming modern, but the west was underdeveloped and poor, and this woman’s relationship with her daughter is extremely toxic. You think how can this have got like this, but you think about family relationships and you just accept things as normal.

“She is a difficult character. I love her! She is great! It is great to have that challenge. It is great to play something that is outside your normal behaviour, and it is invigorating to play this battle of wits, this battle of wills between the mother and the daughter. They can read each other like pamphlets, and that’s the co-dependency. But you can see the older woman is worrying about being left by herself and not being able to cope…”

Martin McDonagh is a writer and director. Theatre credits include: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Druid Theatre, West End, Broadway), A Skull in Connemara (Royal Court, off-Broadway), The Lonesome West (Druid Theatre, Royal Court, Broadway), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (RSC, West End, Broadway), The Cripple of Inishmaan (National Theatre, Broad-way), The Pillowman (National Theatre, Broadway), A Behanding in Spokane (Broadway), Hangmen (Royal Court, West End, Broadway) and A Very Very Very Dark Matter (Bridge Theatre).