Sydney Theatre Company

Yael Stone to star in McDonagh play

Orange Is The New Black star Yael Stone will play the title role in Sydney Theatre Company’s forthcoming production of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen Of Leenane.

The role of Maureen Folan was originally to be played by Rebel Wilson but the Hollywood actor pulled out due to a scheduling clash.

Stone is an impressive replacement having also built an international following from her role as Lorna in all seven seasons of the Emmy-winning show.

She was also catapulted into the media spotlight late last year after going public with allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush with whom she co-starred in a Sydney production of Diary Of A Madman in 2010. Rush, who won a defamation case against The Daily Telegraph over reports of inappropriate conduct during a production of King Lear, has denied the allegations.

Stone, a NIDA graduate, has worked extensively in the Australian film, television and theatre industry since she began her professional career at the age of thirteen.

Yael Stone and Noni Hazelhurst star as Maureen Folan and her mother Mag in the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane. Picture; Rene Vaile

Yael Stone and Noni Hazelhurst star as Maureen Folan and her mother Mag in the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane. Picture; Rene Vaile

Most recently in Australia, Yael played Tori Lustigman in Deep Water  on SBS and Dora Lumley in Picnic At Hanging Rock on Foxtel.

Also joining her in the cast is well-known Australian actor Noni Hazlehurst, who will play Maureen Folan’s cruel mother Mag. Hazlehurst has performed in everything from Playschool to The Letdown and A Place To Call Home.

Director Paige Rattray said the two central characters are “brilliant roles for women”.

“They are both incredibly flawed beings, playing domestic roles that have been thrust onto them by society and circumstance,” she said.

“Their psychology is complex and you see-saw between feeling anger, sympathy, understanding and outrage at their actions. I can’t wait to see what actors of Yael and Noni’s calibre will bring to these roles. If our photo shoot is anything to go by our audiences are in for a very funny and surprising ride!”

Beauty Queen Of Leenane was the first big stage hit for McDonagh who went on to pen the Broadway and West End hits The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, as well as acclaimed films such as In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

The play showcases McDonagh’s devilishly satisfying sense of humour with a cruel underbelly.

The STC production comes on the back of a sell-out season of his equally dark comedy The Cripple Of Inishmaan at the Old Fitzroy.

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane runs from November 18 to December 21 at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

Rebel Wilson pulls out of McDonagh play

Rebel Wilson choose the McDonagh play but will not now star in the STC production.

Rebel Wilson choose the McDonagh play but will not now star in the STC production.

Hollywood star Rebel Wilson has withdrawn from the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

The Australian actor was the most high profile and exciting casting for the 2019 season when she was announced for the role of Maureen Folan in the dark comedy but she will no longer be part of the show due to an “unforeseen scheduling conflict”.

When Sydney Theatre Company announced its 2019 season last year, artistic director Kip Williams said the McDonagh play was the actor’s choice.

Williams told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time: “We had a different play on the table. She came back to us and said, ‘Thanks, very interested in that but I would love to do Beauty Queen Of Leenane’.”

In a press release, the STC said: “Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict,Rebel Wilson has withdrawn from Sydney Theatre Company’s production ofThe Beauty Queen of Leenane. New casting for the Martin McDonagh comedy will be announced in the coming weeks.”

The actress, who lives in Sydney, is well known for her roles in Hollywood movies such as Bridesmaids and the Pitch Perfect film series. She can be seen starring alongside Anne Hathaway in The Hustle, a female remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane runs 18 November to 21 December at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney.

The play was the first big hit for McDonagh who went on to pen the Broadway and West End hits The Pillowman andThe Lieutenant of Inishmore, as well as acclaimed films such as In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Rebel Wilson to star in Beauty Queen Of Leenane

Rebel Wilson is a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s work.

Rebel Wilson is a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s work.

Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids) will play the female lead in Martin McDonagh’s Beauty Queen Of Leenane for the Sydney Theatre Company next year.

The star of movies like Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids returns to the Sydney stage in the ink-black modern classic by Academy Award-winning writer McDonagh who wrote and directed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Wilson’s appearance in this Sydney Theatre Company production is sure to generate plenty of interest when it premieres next November.

The play is part of McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy alongside A Skull In Connemara and The Lonesome West.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is one of my favourite plays,” Wilson said.

“It’s a fascinating look at a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, written by my favourite playwright, Martin McDonagh. He writes such dark and comedic characters – I've always been drawn to his work.

“I am really excited to come back to STC to be in this play. The Beauty Queen of Leenane was the first professional play that I ever saw and I saw it at STC when I was 19 years old. I was just blown away by how talented the actors were and how great the play was. Then I performed in that same theatre a few months later in my first proper play, Spurboard, for ATYP and STC Education. So, to me, the play holds a lot of significance – I hope I can do it justice."

Set in a small Connemara town, Maureen Folan lives a lonely existence with Mag, her aged mother. Their relationship is more arm wrestle than warm embrace. Right now, when Maureen stands the chance of having her first romantic relationship, Mag’s cantankerous presence is simply unbearable.

This play was the first big hit for McDonagh, whose films also include the hugely popular In Bruges.

Rebel Wilson said she is excited by her return to live theatre.

“There’s something very special and very magical about seeing theatre. I can’t get enough of going. I love that it’s an immediate experience. The cool thing is that every theatrical performance is different and it depends on the audience and the energy in the room. Just those people there share that one, live, personal experience. You can’t get that from a movie or a TV show, it’s such a particular experience. That’s why, despite all the technological advances in entertainment, people still go to the theatre – and have for hundreds of years. You just can’t beat the shared experience of theatre.”

The play is part of the Sydney Theatre Company's 2019 Program.

Harp In The South a Strumpet City down under

Kate Mulvany's stage adaptation of Ruth Park's Harp In The South runs until October 6. 

Kate Mulvany's stage adaptation of Ruth Park's Harp In The South runs until October 6. 

 

REVIEW: “There are no literary tricks, no displays of cleverness, little rhetoric and less sentimentality; it is full-hearted, astutely observed writing at its most cohesive.”

Eileen Battersby wrote this in The Irish Times as a way of describing James Plunkett’s novel Strumpet City (successfully adapted for the small screen by Hugh Leonard in the 1970s) but it could have been written about Ruth Parks’ The Harp In The South.

Different city and a slightly different time but its epic scale, its large cast of characters and its essential Irishness are common threads.

Actor and playwright Kate Mulvany, whose resume is already bulging with fine stage work, has adapted Parks’ three novels about the Darcy family - Missus, Harp In The South and Poor Man’s Orange – for the Sydney Theatre Company. The resultant mammoth production, directed by Kip Williams, is both impressive and captivating. 

The ‘harp’ of the title is Ireland and we are taken on a dramatic journey with the Darcy family from the rural NSW town which they first call home in the new land to the grimy Surry Hills slums to which they move in search of a better life.

The streets of Sydney are not paved with gold and their lives become a daily battle of survival against the forces of poverty, violence, illness, crime, alcoholism and prejudice. 

For all that, there’s warmth and humour galore interwoven into the script along with a number of Irish songs tastefully punctuating the narrative.

While this is a new play, it is immediately familiar to Irish eyes with shades of Sean O’Casey, John B Keane and even Brian Friel.

Emigration is a common theme for Irish playwriting but few are written from the perspective of those who have left, looking back over their shoulder, wondering if the grass beneath their feet is indeed greener.

The opening words of Siúil A Rún, which is used to great dramatic effect in Part 1, spell it out.

“I wish I were on yonder hill, ’tis there I’d sit an cry my fill”. 

Harp In The South is steeped in that immigrant world and for the Darcys, Australia does not ultimately deliver a better life for them or their descendants even if the play (six and half hours of theatre delivered over two performances) ends on an optimistic note.

In the #metoo era, Harp In The South resonates with feminist themes as we see three generations of women battle to keep their families together as their own dreams - and indeed their very lives - are sacrificed and abandoned.

As a consequence, the female characters get all the best lines, whether its Anita Hegh’s relentlessly-aproned Margaret Darcy or local brothel madam Delie Stock, beautifully played by Helen Thompson. The Irish-born matriarch Eny Kilker, played by Heather Mitchell chastises her Australian-born son-in-law Hughie Darcy at one point “Irish? You’re about as Irish as a feckin’ wombat!”.

Sadly, the male actors are not given as much to work with as their characters are either lazy drunks, sexual predators or gormless fools. 

Part 1 is a significantly more satisfying theatrical event than Part 2 and one wonders whether the adaptation could have been more comprehensively edited to create one single production.

But make no mistake, this is a very important addition to the Australian theatrical canon and one definitely worth seeing. For all of its Irishness, it is an Australian story. We see the seeds of Sydney’s multicultural, secular, pluralist, hedonistic present through the eyes of these spirited women and the flawed men who take their loyalty and love for granted.

4/5 Stars.