Martin McDonagh: The Punkish Child of the Irish Diaspora

dasdMcDonagh’s spellbinding stories weave together the dreamworld and the real

Famously, W.B. Yeats while walking the streets of the great London Metropolis said he stood “on the roadway or on the pavements grey” and that he heard “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore” of an idyllic Irish island out West.

English, Irish and Anglo-Irish artists throughout the ages have been inspired by the mystique of Connemara and the West at large – and Martin McDonagh is no exception. McDonagh, the proud son of a Sligo mother and a Galway father, grew up in Elephant and Castle in London. His works, quite unjustly so, have been accused of unfairly treating the Irish, but as the razor-sharp Fintan O’Toole wrote:

“McDonagh’s habitual landscape has the name of a real, terrestrial place: Leenane, Inishmane, Inishmore. But that place is also way out there in the planetary space of imagination, in a chaotic region shaped by myth and exile where trapped lives wait for the warm tide to release them… Some Irish critics have accused Martin McDonagh of being inauthentic, in the sense that his Ireland is, to them, unreal. Leaving aside the face that comedy, however dark, does not aspire to realism, this seems to miss the point that he is fact entirely true to his own place – that strange territory, half real and half dreamworld, known as exile.”

It’s best, sometimes, to leave it to McDonagh’s words do the talking. In The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Pato sums up the Anglo-Irishman’s ambivalence to identity:

“When it’s there I am, it’s here I wish I was, of course. Who wouldn’t? But when it’s here that I am… it isn’t there I want to be, of course. But I know it isn’t here I want to be either.”

Here, McDonagh’s national identity is so clearly hyphenated, convoluted, and in a state of flux.

Together, he has both a native home and foreign homeland, as a child of the Irish diaspora in England. It is this concept of fantasy and make-believe, seen in The Pillowman, that plays a vital role in its ability to story tell; the melancholic and imagined allure of Ireland, his lost paradise, is hung over everything and everywhere, making the London Metropolis a barren, desolate place and Ireland his own Shangri-La.

Alternate versions of events are acted out and offered to The Pillowman’s characters. And it is this blending of the real and the imaginary, one’s dreams and nightmares, McDonagh’s Connemara and London’s Elephant and Castle, that the playwright manages to take conservative theatre and dress it with menace and considerable punk.

Owen Barnes

Decadent Theatre Company’s critically acclaimed production of The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh plays the Lyric Theatre Belfast for 4 weeks. 

24 March 2015 – 19 April 2015
Tuesday – Saturday 7.45pm, Saturday & Sunday Matinees 2.30pm
Previews: Tues 24, Weds 25 and Thurs 26 March 7.45PM

Martin McDonagh button (13) The Pillowman Tickets

Leave a Reply