Martin McDonagh (1970), playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker, is considered due to his black comedies one of the most important living Irish playwrights. At the age of 16 he dropped out of school and succumbed to the irresistible lure of television and cinema. Influenced by great filmmakers such as Orson Wells, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Malick, and David Lynch he began writing screenplays and radio plays. As they were invariably turned down, he devoted himself to writing for the stage. His first produced play, The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996) which he wrote at the age of 24 in eight days, brought him immediate success and won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award in 1996. Only a year later four of his plays played in London at the same time. During that theatre season McDonagh was the only dramatist besides Shakespeare to have four works professionally produced in London West End.
His success is mainly due to his great ability to tell intriguing stories. His love of film should not be underestimated either. In his view, there should be more fiction in theatre; he is passionately interested in theatre that should be on par with cinema in its power to capture our attention, and as effective as a rock concert. He makes good use of screenplay writing techniques when creating captivating plots with unexpected turns suffused in dark atmosphere in which violence speaks volumes.
A Behanding in Spokane, a black comedy, is McDonagh’s first foray into an American setting. It opened on Broadway, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on 15 February 2010 with Christopher Walken starring in the role of Carmichael.
A seedy American motel in the middle-of-nowhere is a meeting place of the sinister Carmichael with two petty crooks, Marilyn and Toby (who want to sell him his long lost severed hand) and a freakish hotel clerk Mervyn. In the tiny motel room wacky life secrets of these four tough characters, who do, however, all have their soft spots, are gradually revealed.
When Carmichael was 17 he lost his left hand to a gang of cruel hillbillies in a railroad yard who held it down on tracks in the way of an oncoming train. The one-handed fellow has been attempting to locate his missing appendage for the whole of his adult life. Adding insult to injury, the bullies waved Carmichael goodbye – flapping his hand in farewell as they ran off down the road. And so Carmichael has spent years on a singular mission that won’t stop until he regains that which was so brutally (and literally) ripped from him, and which is, however, of no use to him anymore.
The audience is swept away on this rollercoaster of hatred, revenge, despair and hope, manifold twists of truth and lies. McDonagh proves it again that he is a master of brilliant dialogue filled with acerbic, politically incorrect, vulgar and black humor. Severed limbs, soft bullies, intimidated drug dealers, chained to a radiator, a suitcase with its repulsive contents, a monkey lover, a dangerously philosophical hotel clerk, and so much more awaits you in this brutally funny thriller.