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Dr Donall Mac Cathmhaoill

Profile summary

Professional biography

I studied English Literature at King’s College London, followed by an MA in Feature Film at Goldsmith's. I have written extensively as a professional dramatist, for BBC Drama, Radio 4, BBC Films, Calipo, Make and others, and have written and directred for leading companies in several countries, including the Soho Theatre (London), 7:84 (Glasgow), Jagriti Theatre (Bangalore), Kisi (Reykjavik), and Aisling Ghéar (Belfast). I have won several writers schemes and awards, including the Bill Miskelly Award (NI Screen) and BBC Double Exposure. My film, The Wayfarer, was winner of the BBC Northern Lights competition, and I wrote Warning Signs for the BAFTA-nominated Citizenship series. Recent projects include the NI Screen-funded film Invisible which was nominated as Best LGBTQ film at the Queens New York World Film Festival. My Classic Serial for BBC R4, Barry Lyndon, was nominated for a Sony.

I completed my PhD at Ulster University, with the doctoral thesis Modes of authorship in applied theatre for community advocacy in northern Ireland, 1998-2018. Since 2021 I have been working as a lecturer in Creative Writing at the OU, and am on Module Teams for the MA in Creative Writing and for two undergraduate modules.

Research interests

My doctoral thesis examines modes of authorship in theatre for social and political advocacy.

My research interests fall into two broad categories. One area of interest concerns the ways in which theatre works to challenge dominant social formations. This includes structures of production in theatre for social change; advocacy theatre in post-conflict societies; queer theatre and identity politics in the north of Ireland; and open / porous models of applied theatre authorship.

I also have active interests in alternative scriptwriting methods and dramaturgies, including alternative modes of authorship; non-linear storytelling in screen drama; and disruptive narrative structures in film.

Teaching interests

My primary interests in teaching focus on dramatic writing, for theatre, film, television, radio, and digital / open source / open access formats.

I have particular interests in narrative structure, in audience relationships, and in porous forms.

External collaborations

I am a member of the Asociación Española de Estudios Irlandeses (The Spanish Association for Irish Studies) and have delivered seminars for the the Aula de Artes Escénicas, at the University of València. I am also a member of the Theatre and Performance Research Association, and the Irissh Writers' Union. 

Externally funded projects

Fighting words: activists as authors in the Irish conflict
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Nov 202230 Sep 2024BRITAC British Academy;LEVERHULME The Leverhulme Trust

Throughout the conflict in Ireland, its playwrights (Brian Friel, Stewart Parker, Christina Reid, and others) addressed the horrors taking place in their communities. The latter years of the conflict and post-conflict period saw a growth in theatre with communities that sought to draw the factions into dialogue, and address legacy issues. Much academic writing has examined this work. However, little has been written about that group of authors whose work straddles both these forms: former activists and combatants who have gone on to careers as professional writers. These writers have created work that has been critically lauded and commercially successful. It occupies an important place at the intersection of arts and political advocacy and offers insights to both. The proposed study will examine these works through interviews with their authors, examining the conditions and contexts that motivated their decisions to develop careers as writers alongside or subsequent to political activism.


[Book Review] Culture, Democracy and the Right to Make Art (2024-04)
Mac Cathmhaoill, Dónall
Drama Research, 15

[Review] Stephen Kelly. Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Party and the Northern Ireland Conflict, 1975-1990. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022), 408 pp., ISBN: 9781350115378 (2024)
MacCathmhaoill, Dónall
Review of Irish Studies in Europe, 7, Article 3277(1) (pp. 128-130)

Boundaries: Respecting Authenticating Limits in the Production of a Play on Trans Marginality (2022)
Mac Cathmhaoill, Dónall
Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts, 16(1) (pp. 111-117)

Addressing the legacy of inter-communal violence through drama: mainstream theatre and community drama (2021)
De Ornellas, Kevin and Mac Cathmhaoill, Dónall
Glencree Journal, 2021 (pp. 164-174)

Aesthetics and Efficacy in Applied and Community Theater (2024-04-08)
Mac Cathmhaoill, Dónall
In: Bradford, Richard; Gonzalez, Madelena and De Ornellas, Kevin eds. A Companion to Literary Evaluation. Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture (pp. 226-242)
ISBN : 9781119409854 | Publisher : John Wiley & Sons Ltd | Published : Chichester, UK

“You’ll Get Old Sitting There”: Contempt for Aged Males in Three “Shakespearean” Works by Edward Bond (2023-12-28)
De Ornellas, Kevin and Mac Cathmhaoill, Dónall
In: Kurdi, Mária ed. Negotiating Age: Aging and Ageism in Contemporary Literature and Theatre (pp. 26-47)
ISBN : 9788367405423 | Publisher : Debrecen University Press and Sciendo