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Martin McDonagh (born 26 March 1970) is an English-born Irishmarker playwright, filmmaker, and screenwriter.


McDonagh was born in Camberwellmarker, Londonmarker, England to Irish parents. His mother (originally from Killeenduffmarker, Easkymarker, County Sligomarker) and his father (originally from Lettermullenmarker, Connemara, County Galwaymarker) later moved back to Galwaymarker, leaving Martin and his brother (screenwriter John Michael McDonagh) in London, where Martin began collecting unemployment benefits at age 16.

During visits to Galway in the summers, McDonagh became acquainted with the dialect of English spoken in western Ireland. He would later put an exaggerated and poeticized version of this dialect to work in his plays. His ironic combination of coarse country language, primal symbolism and black humour represents a peculiar fusion of the work of John Millington Synge with the modern drama of Harold Pinter, David Mamet and British television comedy.

He has been 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 Galwaymarker, where he spent his holidays as a child. The first is set in Leenanemarker, 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"), 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.

Since then, McDonagh has focussed 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.

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 New York at the Atlantic Theater Companyinmarker 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.

An Erinization of Sam Shepard's True West, in which 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 Companymarker 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 Companymarker 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.


In 2006, Martin McDonagh won an Oscar for his short film "Six Shooter".

"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 Wicklowmarker, Waterfordmarker and Rosslare.

After winning his Oscar for "Six Shooter", McDonagh 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.


A review by Elizabeth O'Neill for RTÉ said :"A modern day Synge or an English chancer? Martin McDonagh's plays have been courting controversy since The Beauty Queen of Leenane took the world stage by storm in 1996. Audiences have been divided roughly 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."


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

Future Projects

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."

From The New York Times, January 23, 2009: "He’s written a new play, “A Behanding in Spokane,” Unlike his other plays, it’s not set in Ireland; it takes place in “small town America.” The four-member cast includes a “man in mid- to late -40’s who is missing his left hand,” and “a black man and a white chick.” The man missing his left hand, needless to say, wants it back, and the couple, who try to scam him, end up getting tied to a radiator, a bomb threatening to go off if they move. There is lots of blood and gore and hilarity ensues. “It’s brand new,” Mr. McDonagh said when asked about the play. “It’s still under wraps but it should be for the next season.”


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