Martin McDonagh Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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,...

(The entire section is 561 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The drama of Martin McDonagh (muhk-DUHN-uh), characterized by cruel and merciless humor, is claimed by two contemporary literary and dramatic traditions, the Irish and the British. Often viewed as representative of a new kind of theater, Rough Theatre, McDonagh’s plays have received enthusiastic praise by both critics and audiences for his talent for storytelling and gripping dramatic dialogue.

McDonagh grew up in Camberwell, a blue-collar district in South London. His parents had emigrated from Ireland before his birth. His father, a construction worker, was a native of Connemara, Galway, while his mother, a part-time housekeeper, came originally from Sligo. Martin McDonagh spent most of his summers in the west of Ireland, thus maintaining a live connection to an Irish cultural and linguistic heritage. He dropped out of school at sixteen and worked as a civil servant while writing, first, short stories and then, inspired by his brother John, radio scripts and screenplays. After five years of continuous manuscript rejections, McDonagh began writing plays whose plots and characters have reanimated, both respectfully and irreverently, Ireland’s theatrical tradition, especially the work of Dion Boucicault, John Millington Synge, and Sean O’Casey. In 1995 McDonagh became a writer in residence at the Royal National Theatre in London.

It was The Beauty Queen of Leenane that brought McDonagh public and critical acclaim in 1996. He...

(The entire section is 565 words.)