The Guild goes Gaelic

'You can't kick a cow in Leenane without some bastard holding a grudge 20 years. So says Pato, a middle-aged construction worker who plays a central part in the Guild's latest production, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which opened last Thursday.

‘You can’t kick a cow in Leenane without some bastard holding a grudge 20 years.”

So says Pato, a middle-aged construction worker who plays a central part in the Guild’s latest production, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which opened last Thursday.

The play’s set in an Irish backwater, but the themes of social stagnation and ancient grudges will ring true to anyone who’s spent time in a small town anywhere.

It’s also a play that will present many challenges for the Guild to pull off – not least of them, each character speaks in Irish brogue.

Katherine McCallum, the Guild’s artistic director, picked the play for a simple reason. It’s one of her favourites.

“It’s fun. It’s dark. It’s got insight into human nature. And it’s surprising.”

The action centres on Maureen Folan, a 40-year-old spinster who lives with her 70-year-old mother, Mag. Each loathes, and depends on, the other.

“We keep referring to the play as a boxing match,” said director Clinton Walker. “You quickly realize they’re the banes of each others’ existence. But they can’t live without each other.”

Complications arise following the arrival of Pato, who Maureen sees as her last chance at love, and Mag sees as a threat to be driven from the house at all costs.

Walker, who lives in Toronto, admits he was skeptical when McCallum first approached him with the script. But he says he’s convinced they found the right cast to pull it off.

Moira Sauer plays Maureen. Mary Sloane plays Mag.

Anthony Trombetta plays Pato. And Kieran Poile plays Ray, Pato’s younger brother.

The question of how to pull-off the play’s accents is complicated by the fact that the script’s dialect doesn’t actually exist. Rather than being authentic to the region, “it’s like what a cartoon would have,” said Walker.

He settled on having a woman from Dublin record herself reading the script, to provide a base to work from. And he urged the actors to not overdo it.

Accents are “judged so harshly when they’re wrong,” said Walker. “They can pull you out of the reality of the play.”

Yet they’re not the be-all and end-all. “As long you’re bringing life and breath to the character, that’s what’s important,” said Walker.

He suspects we all have a Maureen and Mag within us.

“We develop all sorts of coping mechanisms in life. And not all of these coping mechanisms are good for us,” said Walker. “They do everything against the grain of what we’d consider to be a normal, productive life.

“I go, ‘I’ve had this fight with my mother.’ Or, ‘I’ve been so negative and just can’t wait to get drunk for the rest of my life.’ Thankfully, I have the lens that says that wouldn’t be a good choice.”

The set design is meant to capture the “hoarding sensibility” of the play’s stagnant lives. “It’s like going into grandma’s attic,” said Walker.

The stage is littered with broken appliances, musty pictures and stacks of old newspapers, “to capture the idea that these people have given up,” said Walker.

The play is the work of Martin McDonagh, an Irish playwright who provokes polarizing responses from audiences. His work is controversial, in part, because while he was raised by Irish parents, and spent summers in Galway, he grew up in London, England.

Critic Elizabeth O’Neill divides responses to McDonagh’s works into two camps: “those who think he’s captured the black humour and zeitgeist of a postmodern rural Ireland, and those who see him as making a mockery of Ireland and the Irish by lampooning that caricature of old, the ‘stage-Irish’ fool.”

In other words, it’s sort of like having a Torontonian write a play about the Yukon – which is precisely the situation that Walker finds himself in.

He became fascinated with the territory since coming up in the spring to direct the Guild’s production of the Laramie Project.

“I’ve completely drunk the Whitehorse Kool-Aid,” said Walker. “I love it here. I fantasize about moving here sometimes.”

On the side, he’s working on a play that explores how people head north both to find themselves and to run away from their problems. He’s still sorting out what today’s stampeders seek, if not gold.

But the answer seems obvious: arts grants.

“True enough,” he said with a chuckle.

The show runs until December 11. Tickets are $18 for Wednesdays and Thursdays, $20 for Fridays and Saturdays, available at Whitehorse Motors at Fourth and Wheeler.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

Local poet Joanna Lilley is photographed at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 20, where she will be hosting a poetry workshop on Jan. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Poetry for the ages

Workshop set for the Yukon Beringia Centre

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the coronavirus, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris in the State Dinning Room of the White House on Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C. The administration announced plans Jan. 20 for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Gwich’in. (Alex Brandon/AP)
U.S. President Joe Biden halts oil and gas lease sales in ANWR

“Its great to have an ally in the White House”

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 22, 2021

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Most Read