The Lieutenant of Inishmore

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The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Lieutenant of inishmore mcdonagh book cover methuen.jpg
Methuen cover
Written byMartin McDonagh
Date premiered2001
Place premieredOther Place Theatre
Original languageEnglish
Setting1993 on the island of Inishmore, County Galway

The Lieutenant of Inishmore /lɛfˈtɛnənt ...ˈɪnɪʃˌmr/ is a black comedy by Martin McDonagh, in which the 'mad' leader of an Irish National Liberation Army splinter group discovers that his cat has been killed. It has been produced twice in the West End and on Broadway, where it received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play. In 2014, The Lieutenant of Inishmore was ranked in The Daily Telegraph as one of the 15 greatest plays ever written.[1]

Plot summary[edit]


The story is set in Ireland in 1993. The Northern Ireland peace process is taking its faltering first steps, and INLA man Mad Padraic is hard at work pulling out the toenails of Belfast drug pusher James, when the news comes through that his beloved cat, Wee Thomas, is poorly. So instead of slicing off James's right nipple, as planned, he heads back home to the island of Inishmore. But, when he arrives at the family home, he discovers that Wee Thomas isn't sick but has had his brains squeezed out like toothpaste. Padraic, a man considered too mad for the IRA and sorely trying the patience of his INLA comrades, is intent on revenge, even if that means wiping out his own father. Just as he's about to put a bullet through Dad's head, there's an unexpected knock at the door.


Scene 1

Donny's House. Davey, a pudgy, long-haired teenager, has brought his middle-aged neighbour Donny the corpse of Donny's cat, Wee Thomas, which he has found lying in the road. The cat has been badly mangled; its brains fall out as they examine it. Donny accuses Davey of running it over with his mother's bicycle, which Davey vehemently denies. Donny reveals, to Davey's horror, that Wee Thomas did not belong to him but to his son, Padraic. The cat had been his only friend for fifteen years. Davey pleads with Donny to not involve him, as Padraic, a Lieutenant in the INLA, has an insanely violent temper. (He was thrown out of the IRA for "being too mad.") Donny agrees to keep it secret, but only if Davey admits he killed the cat. Davey half-heartedly confesses to, although only due to Donny's insistence. Donny then plans to call Padraic, who is working in Northern Ireland blowing up chip shops, to tell him that Wee Thomas is sick. Davey does not understand the purpose of the call, so Donny explains that he is letting his son down easy, planning to tell him later that the cat died. Davey agrees and leaves as Donny begins to phone Padraic.

Scene 2

A warehouse in Northern Ireland, where Padraic has James, a drug dealer, hung upside down from the ceiling. Padraic has removed two of James' toenails. James insults Padraic after being lectured on the evils of distributing marijuana to good Catholic children (as opposed to selling to Protestant children, which Padraic deems marginally acceptable). Abruptly, Padraic decides to cut off one of James' nipples, letting him choose which one. Just before he starts cutting, Padraic gets the call from Donny saying that Wee Thomas is doing poorly and off his food. Padraic breaks down into tears and screams that he will be on the first boat back to Inishmore. He then shoots his mobile phone to pieces. James suggests that Wee Thomas may have ringworm and suggests ringworm tablets in some cheese, as his cat had the same problem a month or two back. When he realizes that James loves his cat, Padraic releases him after extracting a promise not to sell more marijuana, and gives him money for the bus to the hospital.

Scene 3

The Road. Davey is tinkering with his bicycle when his younger sister Mairead shoots him in the cheek with her air rifle for hurting Wee Thomas. Davey attempts to explain his innocence and accuses Mairead of being mad for shooting the eyes out of ten cows in an earlier incident. Mairead, who is 16, explains it was her version of terrorism against the meat industry. She continues to accuse Davey of the death of Wee Thomas. In the discussion, it becomes clear that she is in love with Padraic and shares both his political stances and his devotion to cats. Davey explains that Donny has him searching the countryside for another black cat to replace Wee Thomas. Their argument is interrupted by Christy, a tall, sinister-looking man with an eyepatch. He says that he is a friend of Padraic, and also accuses Davey of killing Wee Thomas. Again, Davey denies this. He also tells Christy that Padraic will be back the next day at noon. Christy leaves, but not before again accusing Davey of murdering the cat deliberately. In response, Mairead destroys Davey's bike.

Scene 4

Donny's House. Having been unable to find a black cat to impersonate Wee Thomas, Davey has stolen Mairead's cat Sir Roger (who is orange). They attempt to paint the cat black with shoe polish. Donny and Davey both agree that the plan is unlikely to work, but are running out of time and options. The two are drunk, and bond over their shared love of eating shoe polish. They agree that if their plan fails, Padraic will kill them.

Scene 5

The Road. Christy and two other men, Brendan and Joey, sit eating beans. It is revealed that they are members of INLA (a splinter group of the Official IRA) come to assassinate Padraic. Joey is sullen and unhappy with the other two for killing Wee Thomas, an act necessary to lure Padraic back to Inishmore and set him off guard. The three bicker sharply, and there is a brief Mexican stand-off. They set off to await Padraic's return, not knowing their conversation has been overheard by Mairead.

Scene 6

The Docks. It is early in the morning. Padriac gets off the boat to discover Mairead waiting for him, singing "The Patriot Game", an old republican ballad. He recognizes her and mocks her for her lack of femininity, dismissing her ambitions to join the fight to free Ireland despite her protestations that she is a crack shot. She attempts to flirt with him and he rejects her advances. She sullenly delivers a message from Donny: that Wee Thomas is "over the worst of it." In Padraic's joy at the good news, he kisses her. She grabs him and deepens the kiss. Confused, he begins the long walk back into town and she once again begins to sing "The Patriot Game."

Scene 7

Donny's House. Davey and Donny, exhausted and now seriously drunk, decide to call it a night. They will put the finishing touches on the cat the next morning before Padraic arrives. Davey has made a cross to mark Wee Thomas' grave. Donny instructs Davey several times to wake him at nine AM, and they go to sleep.

Scene 8

Donny's House. Noon. Davey has failed to wake up Donny in time, and they are still asleep when Padraic arrives. He finds the grave marker, flies into a rage, wakes them up and demands to know where the cat is. They indicate the decoy, claiming it has a disease that makes it smell like shoe polish and "get all orangey". Padraic isn't fooled and angrily shoots the cat, blowing it to pieces. He ties up both his father and Davey and is finally told that Wee Thomas is dead. He is prepared to shoot them both for letting the cat die in their care when the three INLA agents burst into the room and hold him at gunpoint. The gunmen bind his hands. They tell Padraic that he has angered the group with his brutal maiming of a drug dealer under their protection, and also with his talk of forming a splinter group from their splinter group. It is also discovered that Padraic is responsible for Christy's missing eye. Davey taunts the bound Padraic, causing him to fly into a rage. As he is dragged outside, he promises that he will be back to kill them. Donny and Davey, still nervous, express relief that it appears to be over when shots fire off stage. The three agents come running back into the house, their eyes shot out by Mairead. They fire outside the house blindly. Padraic and Mairead walk calmly into the house, holding hands. Padraic shoots each of the three agents in turn. Padraic asks her to join him in the fight for a free Ireland, and she accepts. Having found love, they are about to execute Donny and Davey when Christy feebly rises up and apologizes to Padraic for killing his cat. Padraic, flying into a rage, drags Christy off into the next room to torture him before he dies.

Scene 9

Evening. The stage is by now strewn with blood and dismembered body parts. Padraic is quietly sitting on Christy's horribly mutilated corpse, clutching the body of Wee Thomas, which he has dug up from Donny's backyard. Donny and Davey are reluctantly chopping up the bodies of Brendan and Joey to prevent identification. Mairead enters, wearing a striking dress. She and Padraic discuss their plans for the future, perhaps forming their own splinter group, which Padraic calls "Wee Thomas's Army". Mairead mentions that she was unable to find her cat, Sir Roger, to say goodbye. Davey remembers with horror that the cat has been killed by Padraic. He retrieves the cat's collar and flings it out the window before the lovers can notice it. Padraic asks Mairead to marry him. She goes in the next room to wash the blood off her dress, and returns clutching the mangled body of Sir Roger. She kisses Padraic. As he relaxes in bliss, she draws both of his pistols and shoots him in the head. She commands Donny and Davey to clean up, claims the title of "Lieutenant of Inishmore" for herself, and promises to return the next day and investigate what Sir Roger was doing in the house in the first place. Bemoaning their luck, Donny and Davey continue to work when a black cat enters the house. It is, amazingly, Wee Thomas, who had been "out gallivanting" while a poor stray was mistakenly killed in his place. Donny and Davey express shock and anger that four men and two cats are dead for no good reason. They resolve to kill Wee Thomas in retribution. After holding the poor feline at gunpoint, however, they decide against it, and give it a bowl of Frosties for supper.


  • Padraic: (Male. Age: 20 – 25. Lead)
  • Davey: (Male. Age: 17.[2] Lead)
  • Donny: (Male. Age: 45 – 50. Lead)
  • Mairead: (Female. Age: 16.[2] Lead)
  • Christy: (Male. Age: 30 – 50. Supporting)
  • Brendan: (Male. Age: 18 – 25. Supporting)
  • Joey/James: (Male. Age: 18 – 25. Supporting)

Production history[edit]

Original RSC/West End production

The Lieutenant of Inishmore was first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2001. The production was directed by Wilson Milam.[3] In 2002, the production transferred to the Barbican, and then to the Garrick Theatre,[4] before touring the UK.[5]

Original Off-Broadway/Broadway production

A new production opened Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company on 27 February 2006. The production received Lucille Lortel Awards, including Outstanding Play and Outstanding Lead Actor (David Wilmot, tie)[6] with an Obie Award for Martin McDonagh.[7][8] The play transferred to the Lyceum Theatre, on Broadway where it ran from 3 May to 3 September 2006. The opening night cast included Jeff Binder, Andrew Connolly, Dashiell Eaves, Peter Gerety, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian d'Arcy James, Alison Pill, and David Wilmot. It was directed by Wilson Milam, who directed the original RSC/West End production.[9]

Subsequent North American productions

The Lieutenant of Inishmore has also been produced:

South America

The Lieutenant of Inishmore was first produced in Lima, Peru at Teatro La Plaza ISIL, running from 24 April to 1 July 2008.


An Australian production ran from 30 September to 18 October 2008, at the Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts in Brisbane, Queensland. The New Theatre at Newtown in Sydney, New South Wales presented the play from 24 April 2018 to 26 May 2018.[16]

West End revival 2018

The Lieutenant of Inishmore was revived from June - September 2018 at the Noel Coward Theatre. The production is directed by Michael Grandage and stars Aidan Turner as Padraic.[17]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 2006 Alfréd Radok Award for Best Play
  • 2006 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play (win)[6]
  • 2006 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actor - David Wilmot (win)[6]
  • 2006 Obie Award for Playwriting - Martin McDonagh (win)
  • 2006 Tony Award[18] Best Actor in a Play (Wilmot) (nomination)
  • 2006 Tony Award Best Direction of a Play (nomination)
  • 2006 Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Play (Gleeson) (nomination)
  • 2006 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Play (Allison Pill) (nomination)
  • 2006 Tony Award Play (nomination)
  • 2009 Jeff Award for Outstanding Achievements in Special Effects - Steve Tolin
  • 2009 San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor - Adam Farabee
  • 2009 San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Fight Director - Dave Maier
  • 2009 San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble
  • 2010 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Lead Performance - Chris Pine[19]

2018 West End Revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2018 Critics’ Circle Theatre Award[20] Most Promising Newcomer Chris Walley Won
Evening Standard Theatre Award[21] Emerging Talent Nominated
2019 Laurence Olivier Award[22] Best Actor in a Supporting Role Won


  1. ^ "Best plays of all time". The Daily Telegraph. 28 April 2014. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Reiner, Jay (13 July 2010). "'The Lieutenant of Inishmore' a gruesome pleasure". Reuters. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  3. ^ Cavendish, Dominic. "Animal instincts" The Telegraph, 14 May 2001
  4. ^ Spencer, Charles. Devastating Masterpiece of Black Comedy" The Telegraph, 28 June 2002
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b c " The Trip to Bountiful Tops 2006 Lucille Lortel Awards", 2 May 2006
  7. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Bloody Fun: McDonagh's Lieutenant of Inishmore Opens Feb. 27 in U.S. Premiere" Playbill, 27 February 2006
  8. ^ "2006 Nominations by Category", accessed 13 August 2019
  9. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "McDonagh's Bloody Comedy, Lieutenant of Inishmore, Opens on Broadway" Playbill, 3 May 2006
  10. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "The Lieutenant of Inishmore Begins Alley Run Jan. 25" Playbill, 25 January 2008
  11. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " The Lieutenant of Inishmore Opens in St. Louis Sept. 19" Playbill, 19 September 2008
  12. ^ Fuge, Tristan. "Jobsite Theater Announces The Lieutenant of Inishmore Cast and Creative Team", 28 January 2009
  13. ^ Bacalzo, Dan. "Berkeley Rep Announces Cast for Lieutenant of Inishmore ", 4 March 2009
  14. ^ The Lieutenant Of Inishmore, accessed 13 August 2019
  15. ^ Hurwitt, Sam. "Martin McDonagh’s bloody hilarious Lieutenant of Inishmore comes to San Jose Stage" Mercury News, 2 October 2018
  16. ^ The Lieutenant of Inishmore, 26 April 2018
  17. ^ The Lieutenant of Inishmore
  18. ^ The Lieutenant of Inishmore Playbill, accessed 13 August 2019
  19. ^ [2] ladramacriticscircle
  20. ^ "2018 Results | Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". 29 January 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Read the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2018 shortlist in full". 16 November 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Winners list for the Olivier Awards 2019 with Mastercard | Official Website". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 6 December 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • McDonagh, Martin (2001). The Lieutenant of Inishmore. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-76500-8.

External links[edit]