Director’s Note: A Skull in Connemara

Sep 18, 2003

I have a penchant for the Irish playwrights – John Millington Synge, Sean O’Casey, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and now Martin McDonagh. I am particularly attracted to their dark dark humour and their ability to find humanity in a world that tends to be very bleak – bleak in hope and bleak (although beautiful) in landscape. It is the fear that the world is not very sane, reliable or organized, that anything can happen to you, and that it could be very bad, that their humour springs from.
Martin McDonagh has borrowed from the best of the Irish playwrights to create his Leenane Trilogy (THE BEAUTY QUEEN IN LEENANE, A SKULL IN CONNEMARA and THE LONESOME WEST).   In fact, in Lucky’s monologue in Samuel Beckett’s WAITING FOR GODOT he says “the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara…” and in the boredom of GODOT “we may even go so far as to commit a gratuitous crime”. As well, McDonagh has borrowed from John Millington Synge’s PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD, where we have similarities in plot and in the Irish/English hybrid language.
But McDonagh has borrowed from his Irish history only to take it further and ‘closer to home’ (as McDonagh’s parents and other relatives are from the West Coast of Ireland – Galway, where all three plays are situated). He is writing about what he knows about the rural Irish society, about their awareness of urban industrial society (as seen on TV), and about their own lack of opportunities which produces dissatisfaction and rage. With Mick and Mairtin smashing the skeletons, McDonagh is indicating a society that is in revolt against its traditions and against its ancestors. Lonely, isolated and leaderless, all the children can do is smash the icons and traditions of their parents. Or they leave – and most do leave.
Yet with all of this darkness and restless violence we have humour and a great amount of humanity, that comes out of suffering. We see ourselves: our stupidity, our doubts, our disappointments, our bungling, our mediocrity – all things human – and we laugh and despair.