Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh
Martin McDonagh
Born 1970
Camberwell, London, England
Occupation Playwright, Filmmaker, Screenwriter

Martin McDonagh (born 26 March 1970) is an Irish[1][2] playwright, filmmaker, and screenwriter. Although he has lived in London his entire life, he is considered one of the most important living Irish playwrights.[3]



McDonagh was born in Camberwell, London, England to Irish parents. His mother (originally from Killeenduff, Easky, County Sligo) and his father (originally from Lettermullen, Connemara, County Galway) later moved back to Galway, leaving Martin and his brother (writer-director John Michael McDonagh) to grow up in London.

He was awarded Critics' Circle Theatre Awards for Most Promising Playwright in 1996. Separated into two trilogies, McDonagh’s first six plays are located in and around County Galway, where he spent his holidays as a child. The first is set in Leenane, a small village on the west coast of Ireland, and consists of The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996), A Skull in Connemara (1997) and The Lonesome West (1997). His second trilogy consists of The Cripple of Inishmaan (1997), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001) and The Banshees of Inisheer (which was never published, as McDonagh insisted it "isn't any good"),[4] scattered across a trio of islands just off the coast of County Galway. His first non-Irish play, The Pillowman, is set in a fictitious totalitarian state, and premiered at the National Theatre in 2003, having been presented in a rehearsed reading in Galway in 1997. He has also penned two prize-winning radio plays, including The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter.[5]

Since then, McDonagh has focused on his first passion, film. Following the success of Six Shooter in 2006, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, McDonagh wrote and directed his first full-length feature, In Bruges (2008), for which he received the BAFTA Award for Original Screenplay and a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination.

In May 2009, it was announced that a new play, A Behanding in Spokane, would premiere in New York in 2010. Lead actor Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as a killer looking for the hand he lost in his youth in the biting black comedy, McDonough's first play set in America.

He is currently working on a new stage musical with composer Tom Waits and director Robert Wilson.[6]

The Leenane Trilogy

The story of the dysfunctional relationship between a spinster and her domineering mother, during the course of which the former faces her last chance at love, and the latter faces a rather grim end. The play opened in Galway in 1996 and was well received then in New York at the Atlantic Theater Company in 1998 and subsequently transferred to Broadway, receiving a Tony Award for Best Play nomination.

  • A Skull in Connemara (1997)

A Connemara man has the job of exhuming skeletons in an overcrowded graveyard. His newest customer is the wife he was accused of killing years before. The title may be taken from Lucky's monologue in Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

Two brothers bicker in the aftermath of the supposedly accidental fatal shooting of their father. Nominated for Tony Award for Best Play in 1999.

The Aran Islands Trilogy

A crippled teenager schemes to get a part in Man of Aran. Dark comedy ensues. The play opened in 1997 at Royal National Theatre (Cottesloe) in London.[2] In 1998, it opened at Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York City, again with Ruaidhri Conroy in the title role.[3] In the same year, Frederick Koehler played Billy in Los Angeles. In December 2008, The Cripple of Inishmaan was produced in New York City by the Atlantic Theater Company in conjunction with The Druid Theatre Company of Galway, Ireland.

The insane leader of an INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) splinter group has just found out his best friend has been killed. The best friend is a cat... hilarity and/or violence ensues. The play was produced off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company in 2006 before transferring to Broadway and receiving a 2006 nomination for the Tony Award for Best Play.

  • The Banshees of Inisheer

The finale of the Aran Islands trilogy. (unproduced and unpublished)

Other plays

A writer in a non-specified totalitarian state is interrogated over the content of several of his dark-as-night, Brothers Grimm-style short stories. At first assuming he is being questioned over a perceived political subtext in his writing, he comes to find out that there have been a series of local child murders that seem to have been inspired by a few of his gruesome and imaginative stories. Only one other person has read most of those stories, however: his intellectually disabled brother, who just happens to be in the next interrogation room. Awarded Laurence Olivier Award for Best new play in 2004 and nominated for Tony Award for Best Play in 2005.

  • A Behanding in Spokane (2010)

Carmichael has been searching for his missing left hand for over a quarter of a century. Enter two bickering lovebirds with a hand to sell, and a hotel clerk with an aversion to gunfire.


McDonagh prefers writing films to plays, claiming to hold a "respect for the whole history of films and a slight disrespect for theater." In a conversation with Irish drama critic Fintan O'Toole in BOMB Magazine, McDonagh said, "It's not that I don't respect theater. I'm intelligent enough to know that a play can completely inspire a person as much as a film...[but] theater isn't something that's connected to me, from a personal point of view, I can't appreciate what I'm doing."[7]

Six Shooter

In 2006, Martin McDonagh won an Oscar for his short film Six Shooter (2005). Six Shooter, which is the playwright's first film, features Brendan Gleeson, Ruaidhri Conroy, David Wilmot and Aisling O'Sullivan. The black comedy follows Gleeson as he makes a sad train journey home, just hours after his wife's death, but on the trip he encounters a strange and possibly psychotic young man. The short film was shot on location in Wicklow, Waterford and Rosslare.

In Bruges

McDonagh then entered into an agreement with Focus Features to direct a feature-length film from his screenplay In Bruges, about two hit men who hide out in Bruges after a job gone wrong. Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, and Brendan Gleeson star in the film, released in the USA in 2008. The film was also the Opening Night film for the 2008 Sundance Festival and the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. It earned McDonagh a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the 81st Academy Awards and generally received very positive critical reviews.[8][9][10]

Seven Psychopaths

From Stop Smiling Magazine, February 15, 2008: "I’ve got a couple of film scripts that are ready to go. I’m not going to do anything with them for a couple of years, until I’ve traveled and had some fun. But there’s one called Seven Psychopaths; if I do another film, that’ll be it. I hope you like it." In May 2011 it was reported that this would definitely be McDonagh's next film, due for release in 2012 and will star Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, and Tom Waits.


Tony Award for Best Play
Academy Award for Live Action Short Film
Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Critics' Circle Theatre Awards – Most Promising Playwright
Laurence Olivier Awards – Best New Play
British Independent Film Awards – Best Screenplay
British Independent Film Awards – Douglas Hickox Award
British Independent Film Awards – Best Film
BAFTA – Best Original Screenplay
Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild Award – Best Film Script


  1. ^ Martin McDonagh's Irish roots explored
  2. ^ Irish playwrights Conor McPherson and Martin McDonagh cross swords over Irish Identity
  3. ^ "Is He Mellower? Ask the Guy Missing a Hand". New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2011. 
  4. ^ The Pillowman (2006–2007) at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Accessed 5 March 2009.
  5. ^ The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter
  6. ^ "New Musical From Tom Waits On The Horizon". Anti Records. 2010-02-02. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  7. ^ O'Toole, Fintan. "Martin McDonagh". BOMB Magazine. Spring 1998. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  8. ^ Telegraph review, A film that succeeds on every level
  9. ^ In Bruges, Time Out 4 stars
  10. ^ 81% on Rotten Tomatoes Critic score

External links

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