McDonagh, Martin 1970(?)-
McDONAGH, Martin 1970(?)-
Born 1970 (some sources say 1971), in London, England; son of a construction worker and a maid.
Home—London, England. Agent—The Rod Hall Agency Ltd., 7 Good Place, London W1P 1FL, England; c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Faber & Faber, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003.
Playwright. Royal National Theatre, London, England, former resident playwright. Formerly wrote radio plays.
George Divine Award for best fringe play from Writer's Guild, Evening Standard Theatre Awards for most promising newcomer, Critics' Circle Theatre Award for most promising playwright, Lawrence Olivier Award, and six Antoinette Perry "Tony" Awards, all 1996, all for The Beauty Queen of Leenane; best play prize, Pearson Television Theatre Writers' Scheme, 1996, for The Cripple of Inishmaan; Laurence Oliver Award for best new play, 2004, and Antoinette Perry "Tony" Award nomination, 2005, both for The Pillowman.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane (first produced in Galway, Ireland, at the Druid Theatre, 1996), Methuen Drama (London, England), 1996.
A Skull in Connemara (first produced in Galway, Ireland, at the Druid Theatre, 1997), Methuen Drama (London, England), 1997.
The Lonesome West (first produced in Galway, Ireland, at the Druid Theatre, 1997), Methuen Drama (London, England), 1997.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Other Plays (includes The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara, and The Lonesome West), Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Martin McDonagh Plays 1, Methuen (London, England), 2000.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore (first produced in London, England, 2000), Methuen Drama (London, England), 2001.
The Banshees of Inisheer, first produced in London, England, 2000.
The Pillowman (first produced in London, England, at the Royal National Theatre, 2003), Faber & Faber (New York, NY), 2003.
Playwright Martin McDonagh was born in London of Irish parents. Before his first success, he wrote short stories and radio scripts, then theater. Twenty-two of his scripts were rejected by the BBC-Radio. He wrote his first success, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, in eight days. Jeremy Kingston, reviewing the London production in the Times, summed up the plot as being about "a 70-year-old lump of a woman, rocking in her chair in front of the telly, bleating for her Complan, bullied by her unmarried daughter but herself the true tyrant. She is that bogey of the Irish young, the octopus mother who will not let go." Forty-year-old protagonist Maureen cares for her mother, Mag, in Leenane, a small town in Connemara. Maureen's hope for escape comes through a love affair with Pato, a London bricklayer who sends her a letter asking her to join him in the United States and be his wife. Mag intercepts the letter and burns it. Maureen learns of the letter too late to save the relationship and kills her mother with a fireplace poker. "Now delusional, half mad and turning into the very image of her mother at the end, she locks herself in the house and consigns herself to eternal loneliness," reported Robert Brustein in the New Republic. Brustein felt the plot relied too much on the letter, as in Ibsen's A Doll's House, but said the play "has the remorseless drive of the greatest tragedy…. A dazzling debut for a writer of 23." He added, "McDonagh is a natural storyteller who knows how to express a theme through action, and he knows how to create a gallery of fascinating rogues."
Characters in The Beauty Queen were developed by McDonagh as central figures of two additional plays in the same setting, and the three were combined as the "Leenane" trilogy. Joseph J. Feeney wrote in America that McDonagh's Connemara "is not a land of whimsical gaiety or folksy charm, but a place where children murder parents, brothers bludgeon brothers, a husband may be concealing his wife's murder." The second play of the "Leenane" trilogy, A Skull in Connemara, revolves around a gravedigger who must dig up the bones of his dead wife; the third, The Lonesome West, is about a pair of violent brothers and the priest and young girl involved in their mayhem.
McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan is set in the Aran Islands in 1934 as filmmaker Robert Flaherty is making his documentary Man of Aran. "The main strength of the piece lies in the humour, and humours, of the community," wrote John Gross in the London Telegraph. "The two sisters, one dour, the other dotty; the compulsive newsmonger who is trying to get his 90-year-old mother to drink herself to death; the indestructible old woman herself; Slippy Helen, the gangling, scruffy, good-looking girl who terrifies men.… They are all vigorously and quirkily brought to life." Billy, the cripple of the title, sees the film as a means of escape. He auditions and goes to Hollywood for a screen test. Gross continued, "His eventual return, after a long silence, is sweet and sombre and cruel all in one." The next two plays in this trilogy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Banshees of Inisheer, are equally grim looks at the misery and stunted lives in the Aran Islands of western Ireland.
McDonagh changed his setting, but not his dark outlook, in his next play, The Pillowman. Set in an unnamed, vaguely Eastern European police state, it centers on the interrogation of Katurian Katurian, who writes short stories that usually involve the death or disappearance of children, including one about a giant made of pillows who urges children to commit suicide rather than grow up and face miserable adult lives. Eventually, he learns from the police that someone has been enacting these tales on real children. At the same time, he must confront his own childhood and the horrifying role that his brain-damaged brother, Michael, played in the development of his gruesome imagination. Variety critic Matt Wolf called it "McDonagh's least forgiving, bravest play, where such japery as there is, and this author's gift for black comedy has not deserted him, co-exists with the bleakly defining image of 'a smiling mouth stinking into nothingness.'" For Sunday Times critic Victoria Segal, the play "seems to promise an overarching meaning, a great truth that will leap out of the curious on-stage events like grandmother from the wolf's stomach, but ultimately it's more mysterious than that. The play focuses instead on the sheer beauty and power of storytelling, the once-upon-a-times that punctuate every life story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Dramatists, sixth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
America, November 22, 1997, Joseph J. Feeney, "Where Pain and Laughter Meet: The Irish Plays of Martin McDonough," p. 20.
American Theatre, January, 1998, Matt Wolf, "Martin McDonagh on a Tear: Is New York Ready for the New Bad Boy of Irish Theater?," p. 48; October, 1999, Fintan O'Toole, "Smashing the Bones of Poets," p. 48; February, 2001, Misha Berson, "A Completed Irish Trilogy Sings," p. 60; May, 2002, Matt Wolf, "Terrified (and Laughing about It): Who but Martin McDonagh Would Dare to Mock Political Violence These Days?," p. 55.
Back Stage, March 13, 1998, Victor Gluck, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 37; April 10, 1998, David Sheward, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. 35; March 16, 2001, David Sheward, review of A Skull in Connemara, p. 64.
Back Stage West, October 29, 1998, Polly Warfield, "From One Wunderkind to Another," p. 3; November 5, 1998, Edward Shapiro, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. 16; January 21, 1999, Holly Hildebrand, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 17; February 11, 1999, David-Edward Hughes, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 11; April 6, 2000, Dianne Zuckerman, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. 14; August 3, 2000, David-Edward Hughes, review of A Skull in Connemara, p. 18; February 15, 2001, David-Edward Hughes, "Here's to the Ladies," p. 9; March 22, 2001, Hoyt Hilsman, review of The Lonesome West, p. 11; June 27, 2002, T. H. McCulloh, "The Lonesome West at the Celtic Arts Center," p. 13.
Current Biography, August, 1998, "McDonagh, Martin," p. 38.
Denver Business Journal, November 9, 2001, Brad Smith, "Despite Cold Setting, 'Skull' Is Full of Laughs," p. A44.
Entertainment Weekly, June 5, 1998, Jess Cagle, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 72; March 2, 2001, "Stage," p. 61.
Guardian (Manchester, England), March 24, 2001, Sean O'Hagan, "The Wild West," p. S32.
Hudson Review, autumn, 1998, Richard Hornby, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 561; autumn, 1999, Richard Hornby, review of The Weir, p. 465.
Independent (London, England), December 2, 1996, Sarah Hemming, "Gift of Gab," p. S4; April 11, 2001, Daniel Rosenthal, "How to Slay 'Em in the Isles," p. S10.
Irish Literary Supplement, spring, 2003, Jamie Ridenhour, "Feline Fenians," p. 23.
Irish University Review, spring-summer, 2003, Shaun Richards, "'The Outpouring of a Morbid, Unhealthy Mind': The Critical Condition of Synge and McDonagh," p. 201.
Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2001, Mike Boehm, "Brother vs. Brother on Irish Frontier; 'The Lonesome West,' in Its West Coast Premiere, Reveals How Old Feuds Add Fuel to Tragi-Comic Lives," p. B6; March 19, 2001, Michael Phillips, "McDonagh's 'Lonesome West' Offers Yet Another Glimpse into His Nihilistic World. Is This All He Sees?," p. F1.
New Republic, April 7, 1997, Robert Brustein, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, pp. 28-30; June 7, 1999, "Robert Brustein on Theater—Spring Roundup," p. 34; April 9, 2001, Robert Brustein, "On Theater—The Aesthetics of Violence," p. 32.
Newsweek, March 16, 1998, Jack Kroll, "The McDonagh Effect: A New Playwright Blends Irish and American, Theater and Movies, Plus a Dash of Punk," p. 73.
Newsweek International, September 30, 2002, Tara Pepper, "Tickled by Terror," p. 10.
New York, March 9, 1998, John Simon, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 53; April 20, 1998,John Simon, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. 65; May 4, 1998, John Simon, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 130; March 12, 2001, John Simon, review of A Skull in Connemara, p. 71.
New Yorker, January 27, 1997, John Lahr, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. 84; March 16, 1998, John Lahr, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 81; May 24, 1999, John Lahr, "Family Romance: Jewish Strivers on the Lower East Side; Barbarous Brothers in Ireland," p. 99.
New York Times, August 10, 1997, Benedict Nightingale, "A New Young Playwright Full of Old Irish Voices," p. H5; January 2, 1998, Rick Lyman, "Londonizing Off Broadway," pp. B2, E2; February 22, 1998, Benedict Nightingale, "The Sort of Renown that Would Make Any Troupe Green," p. AR4; February 27, 1998, Ben Brantley, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, pp. B1, E1; March 8, 1998, Vincent Canby, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. AR28; April 8, 1998, Ben Brantley, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, pp. B3, E1; April 17, 1998, Rick Lyman, "Along the Way," pp. B2, E2; April 21, 1998, Peter Marks, "Depicting the Hurt of Love Curdling into Hate," pp. B1, E1; April 26, 1998, Vincent Canby, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. AR8; February 26, 1999, Jesse McKinley, "New Segment of Irish Trilogy," p. E2; April 25, 1999, Declan Kiberd, "The Real Ireland, Some Think," p. AR5; April 28, 1999, Ben Brantley, "Another Tempestuous Night in Leenane (Sure, It's Not a Morn in Spring)," pp. B1, E1; May 23, 1999, Vincent Canby, "Two Plays Illuminate Each Other and Their Author," p. AR6; September 29, 2000, Jesse McKinley, "Young British Anguish," pp. B2, E2; February 18, 2001, Wilborn Hampton, "Leenane Inmates Return to Complete McDonagh's Trilogy," p. AR5; February 23, 2001, Ben Brantley, "Leenane III, Bones Flying," pp. B1, E1; January 13, 2002, Benedict Nightingale, "What Does Realistic Mean on the Stage, Anyway?," p. AR5.
New York Times Magazine, January 25, 1998, Rick Lyman, "Most Promising (and Grating) Playwright," p. 16.
North American Review, November, 2000, Robert L. King, review of The Irish and Others, p. 43; March-April, 2002, Robert L. King, "New Plays and a Modern Master," p. 45.
Spectator, May 19, 2001, Patrick Carnegy, review of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, p. 48; January 12, 2002, Toby Young, review of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, p. 40; November 22, 2003, Toby Young, "Shock Tactics," p. 66.
Sunday Times, (London, England), November 23, 2003, Victoria Segal, review of The Pillowman, p. 19.
Telegraph (London, England), January 7, 1997, John Gross, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan.
Theatre Journal, May, 1998, Michael C. O'Neill, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. 257; October, 1999, Mary Trotter, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 336; March, 2002, Joan Fitzpatrick Dean, review of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, p. 161.
Time, August 4, 1997, Mimi Kramer, "Three for the Show," pp. 71-72; April 13, 1998, Richard Zoglin, "When O'Casey Met Scorsese," p. 215; May 10, 1999, Richard Zoglin, "Broadway, Straight-Up: Two Sharp Imports from Britain Cap a Season in Which the Music Faded—and Plays Flourished," p. 85.
Times, (London, England) March 7, 1996, Jeremy Kingston, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
Times Literary Supplement, January 17, 1997, C. L. Dallat, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. 14; August 8, 1997, Oliver Reynolds, "The Leenane Trilogy," p. 22; May 25, 2001, Robert Shore, review of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, p. 19.
U.S. News & World Report, March 9, 1998, Miriam Horn, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 53.
Variety, August 11, 1997, Matt Wolf, review of A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West, pp. 64-65; April 13, 1998, Matt Wolf, review of The Cripple of Inishman, p. 37; April 27, 1998, Charles Isherwood, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, p. 66; May 3, 1999, Charles Isherwood, review of The Lonesome West, p. 92; February 26, 2001, Charles Isherwood, review of A Skull in Connemara, p. 52; January 14, 2002, Matt Wolf, review of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, p. 58; December 1, 2003, Matt Wolf, review of The Pillowman, p. 58.
Vogue, December, 1997, Reggie Nadelson, "Play Time," p. 163.
Wall Street Journal, February 27, 1998, Donald Lyons, review of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, pp. A12, A16; April 8, 1998, Donald Lyons, review of The Cripple of Inishmaan, p. A20; April 30, 1999, Amy Gamerman, review of The Lonesome West, p. W14; February 28, 2001, Amy Gamerman, "Theater: Nights of Merry Skull Bashing," p. A20.*