Martin McDonagh was born in England of Irish parents in 1970. His father, a construction worker, and mother, a part-time house cleaner, had moved from Connemara, Ireland, to London in the 1960’s and raised Martin and his older brother, John, in Camberwell, a working-class neighborhood in the southern part of the city. He dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen and spent the next five years living partly on unemployment benefits.
McDonagh’s ambition to write first emerged during these years, encouraged in part by his well-read brother, who aspired to be a screenwriter. He began to write in earnest when he turned twenty-one and his unemployment benefits ran out. McDonagh took a job as clerk at the Department of Trade and Industry to support himself and in his spare time tried his hand at a variety of literary forms: television scripts, short stories, and video scripts. None sold. He submitted twenty-two radio plays to the British Broadcasting Corporation, all of which were rejected. Eventually two were broadcast by a station based in Sydney, Australia.
McDonagh turned next to stage plays. After several unsuccessful scripts derivative of David Mamet’s work, all of which he eventually discarded, he wrote The Beauty Queen of Leenane, reportedly in an eight-day burst of creativity. The story of an elderly woman and her caretaker spinster daughter trapped in bitter, brutal cohabitation in a small town in contemporary Ireland,...
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