Martin McDonagh (/mÉ™kˈdÉ'nÉ™/; born 26 March 1970) is a playwright, screenwriter and film director, born in London with both British and Irish citizenship. He has been described as one of the most important living Irish playwrights.

Early life

Martin McDonagh

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 McDonagh and his brother (writer-director John Michael McDonagh) to grow up in London.



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 (the third play was never published, as McDonagh insisted it "isn't any good"), and are set across a trio of islands that are located off the coast of County Galway.

McDonagh's first non-Irish play The Pillowman is set in a fictitious totalitarian state and premiered at the National Theatre in 2003, after a rehearsed reading in Galway in 1997. A Behanding in Spokane is McDonagh's first play that is set in the United States and it premiered in New York City in 2010â€"lead actor Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as a killer looking for the hand he lost in his youth. McDonagh also penned two prize-winning radio plays, one of which is The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter.

In February 2010, an announcement revealed that McDonagh was working on a new stage musical with composer Tom Waits and director Robert Wilson.

The Leenane Trilogy

  • The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996)

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 was well received on its opening night in Galway in 1996 and was then shown at New York's Atlantic Theater Company in 1998. The play was later transferred to Broadway and received a Tony Award for Best Play nomination.

  • A Skull in Connemara (1997)

A Connemara man is employed to exhume skeletons in an overcrowded graveyard and he encounters the wife whom he was once accused of killing.

  • The Lonesome West (1997)

Two brothers bicker in the aftermath of the supposedly accidental fatal shooting of their father. The play received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play in 1999.

The Aran Islands Trilogy

  • The Cripple of Inishmaan (1996)

A dark comedy in which a crippled teenager schemes to attain a role in Man of Aran. The play opened in 1997 at the Royal National Theatre (Cottesloe) in London, and opened the following year at Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York City, with Ruaidhri Conroy in the title role on both occasions (also in 1998, Frederick Koehler played the title role in Los Angeles, USA). 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 Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001)

A dark comedy in which the insane leader of an INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) splinter group discovers that his best friend, a cat, has been killed. The play was produced off-Broadway in 2006 by the Atlantic Theater Company, before it was transferred to Broadway and received a 2006 Tony Award nomination for Best Play.

  • The Banshees of Inisheer

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

Other plays

  • The Pillowman (2003)

A writer in a non-specified totalitarian state is interrogated over the content of several of his Brothers Grimm-style short stories. The play was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2004 and received a 2005 Tony Award nomination for Best Play.

  • A Behanding in Spokane (2010)

A play in which the character of Carmichael has been searching for his missing left hand for a quarter of a century.


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

In 2006, McDonagh won an Academy Award for his short film Six Shooter (2005), which is the playwright's first film. Six Shooter is a black comedy that features Brendan Gleeson, Ruaidhri Conroy, David Wilmot and Aisling O'Sullivan, and was shot on location in Wicklow, Waterford and Rosslare. In the short film, Gleeson's character encounters a strange, and possibly psychotic, young man during a homeward train journey following his wife's death.

McDonagh then entered into an agreement with the Focus Features film production company to direct In Bruges, a feature-length film based on his own screenplay, in which two Irish hitmen hide in the Flemish city of Bruges after a problematic job. Released in the USA in 2008, the film features Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes and Brendan Gleeson. In Bruges was the Opening Night film for the 2008 Sundance Festival and the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, and McDonagh received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the 81st Academy Awards, after the film garnered positive critical reviews.

In a 2008 interview with the Stop Smiling magazine, McDonagh revealed "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." The production of the film was confirmed in May 2011 and it was eventually released in North America on 12 October 2012â€"Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken and Tom Waits star in the film.

Plays staged in Iran

In August 2013, The Pillowman was staged at Arasbaran Cultural House in Tehran. The play was directed by Mohammad Yaghoubi and Ayda Keikhai, and received a warm welcome by Iranian theater-goers. In December 2014, The Lieutenant of Inishmore was staged at Tajrobeh Theater, Tehran. The play was directed by Morteza Meshkat.

Recurring collaborators

Martin McDonagh


Martin McDonagh


Martin McDonagh

Critics' Circle Theatre Awards

  • Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright
    • 1996: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Won)

Drama Desk Awards

  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play
    • 1998: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Won)
    • 2005: The Pillowman (Nomination)
    • 2006: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Nomination)

Laurence Olivier Awards

  • Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy
    • 1997: A Skull in Connemara (Nomination)
    • 2003: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Won)
  • Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play
    • 1997: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Nomination)
    • 2004: The Pillowman (Won)

Tony Awards

  • Tony Award for Best Play
    • 1998: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Nomination)
    • 1999: The Lonesome West (Nomination)
    • 2005: The Pillowman (Nomination)
    • 2006: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Nomination)


External links

Martin McDonagh
  • Martin McDonagh at the Internet Movie Database
  • Martin McDonagh at the Internet Broadway Database

Martin McDonagh

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