Martin McDonagh was born in London in 1970; his parents were Irish. His 2001 play is about an Irish terrorist fighting to free Northern Ireland of English rule who is utterly indifferent to human suffering but since boyhood has adored his cat. McDonagh plays on the absurdities and incongruities of fanaticism, humorously presenting even scenes of torture and violent bloodshed. The play, the beginning of which is excerpted here, eventually ends in carnage, with corpses, body parts, and blood covering the stage.
Donny, mid-forties. Padraic’s father. From Inishmore.
Davey, seventeen. Slightly overweight, long hair. From Inishmore.
Padraic, twenty-one. Handsome. From Inishmore.
Mairead, sixteen. Cropped hair, pretty. Davey’s sister. From Inishmore.
James, twenties/thirties. Northern Irish.
Christy, thirties/forties. Northern Irish.
Brendan, twenty. Northern Irish.
Joey, twenty. Northern Irish.
The play is set in 1993 on the island of Inishmore, County Galway.
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A cottage on Inishmore1 circa 1993. Front door in centre of back wall, a window to its left and right. Exit stage left to a bathroom, unseen, an open area forward right to signify another room. A clock somewhere on back wall along with a framed piece of embroidery reading ‘Home Sweet Home’. Cupboards left and right, a telephone on one of them. A couple of armchairs near the back wall and a table centre, on which, as the play begins, lies a dead black cat, its head half missing. Donny, the middle-aged owner of the house, and Davey, a long-haired, slightly pudgy neighbour of seventeen, stand staring quietly at this cat for a few moments.
Davey Do you think he’s dead, Donny?
Pause. Donny picks up the limp dead cat. Bits of its brain plop out. Donny looks across at Davey and puts the cat back down again.
Davey He might be in a coma. Would we ring the vet?
Donny It’s more than a vet this poor feck needs.
Davey If he gave him an injection?
Donny (pause) Have this injection, you!
Donny steps back and kicks Davey up the arse.
Davey(almost crying) What was that fer?!
Donny How many times have people told you, hairing down that bastarding hill on that bastarding bicycle?
Davey I didn’t touch the poor fella, I swear it! In the road I saw him lying . . . !
Donny In the road me arsehole!
DaveyAnd I wasn’t hairing at all, I was going slow. And a black lump ahead in the road I saw, and what the devil’s that, I said to meself. . .
Donny After you’d rode over him, aye, and then probably reversed!
Davey Ahead in the road, I’m saying, and don’t be slinging reversed at me.
Donny I’ll be slinging what I like!
DaveyAnd I was off me bike be that time anyway and just wheeling it along, and when I saw it was Wee Thomas didn’t I scoop him up and run him into you as quick as me legs could carry me?
Donny The first thing the books say is don’t be moving an accident victim till professional fecking help arrives, and a fool knows that!
Davey Well, I don’t be reading books on cats being knocked down, Donny!
Donny Well, maybe you should, now . . .
Davey Because there are no such books!
Donny . . . And maybe Thomas would still be with us then.
Davey A car it must have been clobbered him.
Donny No cars have been down that road all day, and when do cars ever come down that road? You’re the only bastard comes down that lonely road and why? Because you’re a cowshite eejit with nothing better to do than roar down roads on your mam’s bicycle for no reason other than to feel the wind in that girl’s mop o’ hair of yours!
Davey If you’re insulting me hair again, Donny Osbourne, I’ll be off right this minute. After going out of me way to bring your cat in to you . . .
Donny After squashing the life out of me cat, and he isn’t my cat at all . . .
Davey So as not to let the oul flies be picking the meat off him. A favour I was doing you.
Donny It’s a favour now! With half of that cat’s head poking out of the spokes of your wheels, I’ll bet, and it’s a favour you’re doing me!
Davey stares at Donny a moment, then darts out through the front door. Donnygoes over to the cat and strokes it sadly, then sits in the armchair stage left, looking at the cat’s blood on his hands. Davey returns a few moments later, dragging his mum’s bicycle in through the door. It is pink, with small wheels and a basket. He brings it right over for Donny to see, raises its front wheel so that it’s almost in Donny’s face, and starts slowly spinning it.
Davey Now where’s your cat’s head? Eh? Now where’s your cat’s head?
Donny (depressed) Scraping it off on the way wouldn’t have been a hard job.
Davey There’s no cat’s head on that bicycle wheel. Not even a stain, nor the comrade of a stain, and the state of Wee Tommy you’d have had lumps of brain pure dribbling.
Donny Put your bicycle out of me face, now, Davey.
Davey Poor Wee Thomas’s head, a bicycle wouldn’t do damage that decent. Damage that decent you’d have to go out of your way to do.
Donny Your bicycle out of me face, I’m saying, or it’ll be to your head there’ll be decent damage done.
Davey leaves the bike at the front door.
Davey Either a car or a big stone or a dog you’d need to do that decent damage. And you’d hear a dog.
Donny And you’d hear a car.
Davey (pause) You’d probably hear a big stone too. It depends on how big and from what distance. Poor Wee Thomas. I did like him, I did. Which is more than I can say for most of the cats round here. Most of the cats round here I wouldn’t give a penny for. They’re all full of themselves. Like our Mairead’s cat. You’d give him a pat, he’d outright sneer. But Wee Thomas was a friendly cat. He would always say hello to you were you to see him sitting on a wall. (Pause.) He won’t be saying hello no more, God bless him. Not with that lump of brain gone. (Pause.) And you haven’t had him long at all, have you, Donny? Wasn’t he near brand new?
Donny He isn’t my fecking cat at all is what the point of the fecking matter is, and you know full well.
Davey I don’t know full well. What . . . ?
Donny Only fecking looking after the bastard I was the year.
Davey Who were you fecking looking after him for, Donny?
Donny Who do you think?
Davey (pause) Not . . . not . . .
Donny Not what?
Davey (with horror) Not your . . . not your . . .
Donny Why else would I be upset? I don’t get upset over cats!
Davey Not your Padraic?!
Donny Aye, my Padraic.
Davey Oh Jesus Christ, Donny! Not your Padraic in the INLA?!
Donny Do I have another fecking Padraic?
Davey Wee Thomas is his?
Donny And was his since he was five years old. His only friend for fifteen year. Brought him out to me when he started moving about the country bombing places and couldn’t look after him as decent as he thought needed. His only friend in the world, now.
Davey Was he fond of him?
Donny Of course he was fond of him.
Davey Oh he’ll be mad.
Donny He will be mad.
Davey As if he wasn’t mad enough already. Padraic’s mad enough for seven people. Don’t they call him ‘Mad Padraic’?
Donny They do.
Davey Isn’t it him the IRA wouldn’t let in because he was too mad?
Donny It was. And he never forgave them for it.
Davey Maybe he’s calmed down since he’s been travelling.
Donny They tell me he’s gotten worse. I can just see his face after he hears. And I can just see your face too, after he hears your fault it was. I can see him plugging holes in it with a stick.
Davey (dropping to his knees) Oh please, Donny, I swear to God it wasn’t me. Don’t be saying my name to him, now. Sure, Padraic would kill you for sweating near him, let alone this. Didn’t he outright cripple the poor fella laughed at that girly scarf he used to wear, and that was when he was twelve?!
Donny His first cousin too, that fella was, never minding twelve! And then pinched his wheelchair!
Davey Please now, Donny, you won’t be mentioning my name to him?
Donny gets up and ambles around. Davey stands also.
Donny If you admit it was you knocked poor Thomas down, Davey, I won’t tell him. If you carry on that it wasn’t, then I will. Them are your choices.
Davey But it isn’t fecking fair, Donny!
Donny I don’t know if it is or it isn’t.
Davey I knew well I should’ve up and ignored the bastard when I saw him lying there, for if a black cat crossing your path is bad luck, what must one of the feckers lying dead in front of you be? Worse luck. I killed Wee Thomas so, if that’s what you want to hear.
Davey How? However you fecking want, sure! I hit him with me bike, then I banged him with a hoe, then I jumped up and down on the feck!
Donny You hit him with your bike, uh-huh, I suspected. But an accident it was?
Davey An accident, aye. A pure fecking accident.
Donny Well . . . fair enough if an accident is all it was.
Davey (pause) So you won’t be mentioning my name so?
Donny I won’t be.
Davey Good-oh. (Pause.) When’ll you be informing him of the news?
Donny I’ll give him a ring in a minute now. He has a mobile.
Davey He’ll be furious.
Donny I’ll tell him . . . I’ll tell him Wee Thomas is poorly, I’ll tell him. Aye . . .
Davey Sure he’ll know he’s more than poorly, Donny, when he sees them brains bubbling away . . .
Donny He’s poorly but there’s no need to be rushing home, I’m saying . . .
Davey I’m with you now, Donny . . .
Donny Do you get me? He’s just a tadeen off his food, like, I’ll tell him. And in a week I’ll say he’s going downhill a biteen. And in another week I’ll say he passed away peaceful in his sleep, like.
Davey You’ll be letting him down easy.
Donny I’ll be letting him down easy.
Davey You won’t give him the bad news all at once. You’ll do it in stages, like.
Donny The last thing we want is Padraic roaring home to a dead cat, now.
Davey Oh Donny, that’s the last thing in the world you’d want.
Donny That’s the last thing you’d want too. You’re the bastard brained him, you’ve admitted.
Davey goes to say something but doesn’t, just squirms.
Davey Aye, aye, I am the bastard . . . (mumbling) for feck’s sake . . .
Donny I’ll give him a ring now, I will.
Davey (mumbling) Give him a ring now, for your fecking self, aye, ya feck.
Donny stands there biting his bottom lip. Davey goes to the door and picks up his bike.
Davey Drove on a-fecking-head I should’ve, I knew! I’m too kind to little things is my fecking trouble!
Donny picks up the telephone, staring at the cat.
Donny Oh Wee Tommy, you poor beggar. As fecked up as you are, it mightn’t be long till we’re just as fecked up as you if that lube turns up. Just as fecked up? Twice as fecked up is more like.
Davey Three times as fecked up probably, Donny, or maybe four times?
Donny Be fecking off home you, ya cat brainer.
Davey I will. And I’ll be braining some more cats on me way home, cos it’s me fecking hobby now, so it is.
Donny (absently) Don’t be braining any more cats, now.
Davey sighs, rolls his eyes to the ceiling and wheels his bike out. Donny starts dialling a number slowly, sadly. Fade to black.
A desolate Northern Ireland warehouse or some such. James, a bare-chested, bloody and bruised man, hangs upside down from the ceiling, his feet bare and bloody. Padraic’s idles near him, wielding a cut-throat razor, his hands bloody. Around Padraic’s chest are strapped two empty holsters and there are two handguns on a table stage left. James is crying.
Padraic James? (Pause.) James?
James (sobbing) Wha’?
Padraic Do you know what’s next on the agenda?
James I don’t. And I don’t want to know.
Padraic I know well you don’t, you big feck. Look at the state of you, off bawling like some fool of a girl.
James Is a fella not supposed to bawl so, you take his fecking toenails off him?
Padraic (pause) Don’t be saying ‘feck’ to me, James . . .
James I’m sorry, Padraic . . .
Padraic Or you’ll make me want to give you some serious bother, and not just be tinkering with you.
James Is toenails off just tinkering with me, so?
Padraic It is.
James Oh, it’s just fecking tinkering with me toenails off is . . .
Padraic James Hanley, don’t keep going on about your stupid fecking toenails! The way you talk it sounds as if I took off a rake of them, when it was only two I took off, and them only small ones. If they’d been big ones I could understand, but they weren’t. They were small. You’d hardly notice them gone. And if it was so concerned you were about the health of them toenails it would’ve been once in a while you cleaned out the muck from under them.
James Well, you’ve saved me that job for good now anyways.
Padraic If I hadn’t been such a nice fella I would’ve taken one toenail off of separate feet, but I didn’t, I took two toenails off the one foot, so that it’s only the one foot you’ll have to be limping on and not the two. If it had been the two you’d’ve found it a devil to be getting about. But with the pain concentrated on the one, if you can get hold of a crutch or a decent stick, I’m not sure if the General Hospital does hand them out but they might do, I don’t know. You could phone them up and ask, or go in and see them would be the best thing, and make sure them toes won’t be going septic at the same time. I didn’t disinfect this razor at all, I never do, I see no need, but they’d be the best people to ask, sure they’re the experts. You’ll probably need a tetanus jab too, oh there’s no question. I do hate injections, I do. I think I’d rather be slashed with a razor than have an injection. I don’t know why. Of course, I’d rather have neither. You’ll have had both by the end of the day. What a bad day you’ve had. (Pause.) But, em . . . I have lost me train of thought now, so I have.
James You’ve lost your train of thought? Uh-huh. As slow as that fecking train is, and you’ve lost it?
Padraic (pause) The next item on the agenda is which nipple of yours do you want to be saying goodbye to. The right or the left?
James No, now. Come on, now . . . !
Padraic Be picking, I’m saying! Whichever’s your favourite nipple I won’t be touching that fella at all, I’ll be concentrating on the other. I’ll be giving him a nice sliceen and then probably be feeding him to ya, but if you don’t pick and pick quick it’ll be both of the boys you’ll be waving goodbye to, and waving goodbye to two tits when there’s no need but to wave goodbye to one makes no sense at all as far as I can see. In my eyes, like. In fact it’s the mark of a madman. So be picking your nipple and we’ll get the ball rolling, for I have better things to do with me time than to be hanging around warehouses cutting your nipples off, James Hanley.
James (crying) But I’ve done nothing at all to deserve nipples off, Padraic!
Padraic Oh, let’s not be getting into the whys and wherefores, James. You do push your filthy drugs on the schoolchildren of Ireland, and if you concentrated exclusive on the Protestants I’d say all well and good, but you don’t, you take all comers.
James Marijuana to the students at the Tech I sell, and at fair rates . . . !
Padraic Keeping our youngsters in a drugged-up and idle haze, when it’s out on the streets pegging bottles at coppers they should be.
James Sure, everybody smokes marijuana nowadays.
Padraic I don’t!
James Well, maybe you should! It might calm you down!
Padraic Be picking your nipple, I’m saying!
James Paul McCartney says it should be outright legalised! He says it’s less bad than booze and it cures epileptics!
Padraic Say goodbye to them both so.
James He has statistics, Padraic!
Padraic approaches him quickly with the razor.
James The right one! The right one!
Padraic takes James’s right tit in his hand so that the nipple points out, and is just about to slice it off . . .
Padraic Grit your teeth, James. This may hurt.
James (screaming) No . . . !
. . . when the cellphone in Padraic’s back pocket rings loudly.
Padraic Will you hang on there a minute, James . . . ?
Padraic answers the phone, idling away from James, who is left shaking and whimpering behind him.
(Into phone.) Hello? Dad, ya bastard, how are you? (To James.) It’s me dad. (Pause.) I’m grand indeed, Dad, grand. How is all on Inishmore? Good-oh, good-oh. I’m at work at the moment, Dad, was it important now? I’m torturing one of them fellas pushes drugs on wee kids, but I can’t say too much over the phone, like . . .
James (crying) Marijuana, Padraic.
Padraic They are terrible men, and it’s like they don’t even know they are, when they know well. They think they’re doing the world a favour, now. (Pause.) I haven’t been up to much else, really. I put bombs in a couple of chip shops, but they didn’t go off. (Pause.) Because chip shops aren’t as well guarded as army barracks. Do I need your advice on planting bombs? (Pause.) I was pissed off, anyways. The fella who makes our bombs, he’s fecking useless. I think he does drink. Either they go off before you’re ready or they don’t go off at all. One thing about the IRA anyways, as much as I hate the bastards, you’ve got to hand it to them, they know how to make a decent bomb. (Pause.) Sure, why would the IRA be selling us any of their bombs? They need them themselves, sure. Those bastards’d charge the earth anyways. I’ll tell ya, I’m getting pissed off with the whole thing. I’ve been thinking of forming a splinter group. (Pause.) I know we’re already a splinter group, but there’s no law says you can’t splinter from a splinter group. A splinter group is the best kind of group to splinter from anyways. It shows you know your own mind (Whispering.), but there’s someone in the room, Dad, I can’t be talking about splinter groups. (To James, politely.) I’ll be with you in a minute now, James.
James shudders slightly.
Padraic What was it you were ringing about anyways, Dad?
Pause. Padraic’s face suddenly becomes very serious, eyes filling with tears.
Eh? What about Wee Thomas? (Pause.) Poorly? How poorly, have you brought him to the doctor? (Pause.) How long has he been off his food, and why didn’t you tell me when it first started? (Pause.) He’s not too bad? Either he’s poorly or he’s not too bad now, Dad, he’s either one or the fecking other, there’s a major difference, now, between not too bad and fecking poorly, he cannot be the fecking two at fecking once, now, (Crying heavily.) and you wouldn’t be fecking calling me at all if he was not too bad, now! What have you done to Wee Thomas now, you fecking bastard? Put Wee Thomas on the phone. He’s sleeping? Well, put a blanket on him and be stroking and stroking him and get a second opinion from the doctor and don’t be talking loud near him and I’ll be home the first fecking boat in the fecking morning. Ar, you fecker, ya!
Padraic smashes the phone to pieces on the table, shoots the pieces a few times, then sits there crying quietly. Pause.
James Is anything the matter, Padraic?
Padraic Me cat’s poorly, James. Me best friend in the world, he is.
James What’s wrong with him?
Padraic I don’t know, now. He’s off his food, like.
James Sure that’s nothing to go crying over, being off his food. He probably has ringworm.
Padraic Ringworm? Is that serious, now?
James Sure, ringworm isn’t serious at all. Just get him some ringworm pellets from the chemist and feed them him wrapped up in a bit of cheese. They don’t like the taste of ringworm pellets, cats, so if you hide them in a bit of cheese he’ll eat them unbeknownst and never know the differ, and he’ll be as right as rain in a day or two, or at the outside three. Just don’t exceed the stated dose. Y’know, read the instructions, like.
Padraic How do you know so much about ringworm?
James Sure, don’t I have a cat of me own I love with all my heart, had ringworm a month back?
Padraic Do ya? I didn’t know drug pushers had cats.
James Sure, drug pushers are the same as anybody underneath.
Padraic What’s his name?
Padraic What’s his name?
James Em, Dominic. (Pause.) And I promise not to sell drugs to children any more, Padraic. On Dominic’s life I promise. And that’s a big promise, because Dominic means more to me than anything.
Padraic (pause) Are you gipping me now, James?
James I’m not gipping you. This is a serious subject.
Padraic approaches James with the razor and slices through the ropes that bind him. James falls to the floor in a heap, then half picks himself up, testing out his weight on his bloody foot. Padraic holsters his guns.
Padraic How are them toes?
James They’re perfect, Padraic.
Padraic You admit you deserved the toes at least?
James Oh I did. The toes and an arm, really.
Padraic Do you have money to get the bus to the hospital?
James I don’t.
Padraic gives the confused James some change.
Padraic Because you want to get them toes looked at. The last thing you want now is septic toes.
James Oh d’you know, that’s the last thing I’d want.
Padraic I’m off to Galway to see me cat.
James (calling out) And I hope by the time you get home he’s laughing and smiling and as fit as a fiddle, Padraic!
Pause. Sound of a distant outer door banging shut.
(Crying.) I hope that he’s dead already and buried in shite, you stupid mental fecking bastard, ya!