The Lament for Arthur Cleary was Dermot Bolger’s debut play, which premiered at the 1989 Dublin Theatre Festival. Loosely having its origins in a re-imagining of the great Gaelic poem, Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire (The Lament for Art O’Leary), it concerns the relationship between a working class Dubliner in his mid thirties – who returns after a decade and refuses to bow to the changes of a new Dublin which has been scarred by unemployment and heroin – and the nineteen year old girl who falls in love with him. It received the Samuel Beckett Award for best first play seen in Britain, The Stewart Parker BBC Award and An Edinburgh Fringe First Award in 1990.

It was published in the anthology, A Crack in the Emerald (Nick Hern Books), and in two collections of Bolger’s plays, A Dublin Quartet (Penguin) and Dermot Bolger: Plays 1 (Methuen).  It was translated into French by Emile Jean Dumay and published in France as La Deploration d’Arthur Cleary by l’Harmattan. Applications for any performance, whether by amateur or professional companies, must be made before rehearsals begin. Absolutely no performance may be given unless a license has been obtained.



“Breathtaking… there’s enough in the brilliant development of his drama to suggest that the vitality of Irish theatrical language is safe in his hands.”  - The Guardian

“The Lament for Arthur Cleary is a joyous celebration of the old strumpet city itself, a love poem to the city of Dublin, to its people, its streets, its housing estates, but above all to that indomitable Dublin spirit.” - Sunday Tribune


“Theatrically rich and socially powerful, it takes on the lineaments of an epic voyage, a voyage into the dark heart of a city where Irish theatre has seldom been before.”  - Irish Times

“The Lament for Arthur Cleary exposes the underbelly of a city seething with violence, Raxhman-like landlords, loan sharks and drug pushers… written in a language both brutal and lyrical.” - Independent



Author Dermot Bolger, director David Byrne
and the cast and crew of The Lament for
Arthur Cleary celebrate the 100th
performance of the original production in
the Peacock Theatre, 1990.


The Lament for Arthur Cleary was first performed by Wet Paint Arts as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival at the Project Arts Centre on 18th Sept 1989. The text was published by Nick Hern books in the anthology A Crack in the Emerald, and in two editions of Bolger's plays - A Dublin Quartet (Penguin) and Dermot Bolger Plays 1 (Methuen) Companies with problems obtaining a copy of the text may request a reading copy by e-mail. Applications for any performance, whether by amateur or professional companies, must be made before rehearsals begin. Absolutely no performance may be given unless a license has been obtained.




ARTHUR: Little jumped up bastard! I should have drowned him when I had the chance!

KATHY: For Christ's sake, Arthur, stop! Have sense!

They tussle with him trying to break free as she attempts to restrain him but gradually their struggle turns into an embrace.

KATHY: I don't want to lose you. Don't want to go back to that... hopelessness.

He strokes her hair, soothing her.

ARTHUR: There's nothing to fear, love. I've had his measure all my life.

KATHY: (Softly) Not any more, Arthur. He's more dangerous than you think. You don't know him. How he works.

ARTHUR: All my life I've known him and his sort.

KATHY: For my sake, fear him.

ARTHUR: You're always afraid.

KATHY: Afraid for you. For the rest, I'll spit in their faces. It's so good here with you it frightens me. I keep saying that, I keep thinking nothing this good can last.

ARTHUR: (Stroking her hair.) When I found you I found home again. No matter what you say. No matter if I get lost at times. With you, Kathy, it feels like it was. There's nothing more I want now, nowhere else to go. At times it's like this whole city's in terror of something that will never happen. Let's forget them all. We have this flat and each other, there's nobody can break that apart.

KATHY: (Looking up at him with urgency in her voice) Arthur, listen to me, they're all watching you and you don't realise it. The pushers, they hate the way you look at them. Even the kids round here, Arthur, they haven't a clue who you are. I see them dismantling that bike with their eyes, breaking in down into needles and fixes. To them all you're just an outsider. And now Deignan. You remind him of things. His kind own this city now, Arthur. He'll want to own you as well. Don't you know that?

ARTHUR: (Laughing as he climbs up on platform) I own this city and you and the thousands of us who live in warrens of estates and these blocks of crumbling flats. It's ours Kathy, and it doesn't matter what titles they give themselves or what rackrents they collect, it doesn't even matter if they tear down every street so we can't recognise it. They still can't take it away from us. Because when they're rotting in the soil there'll still be thousands of us, swarming out into the thoroughfares every evening. (He climbs down to take her in his arms) Come on, no more squabbling. This room is getting us down. (He runs his hand down to her chin and gently cups it.) Lift up your head Kate. We'll leave the bike here for a change, walk down through our town together, yours and mine. I want to show you off.

She looks up at him and they kiss.

KATHY: You never heard a word I said, did you?

ARTHUR: (smiles) Silly talk from a silly time. (He begins to walk across the stage with her legs resting on his) Dole day tomorrow, love. Bread, tea, pints of Guinness and, you'll see, work will come soon. Summer's coming. I could always knock out a living in the summer months, no matter what. Just wait. That's when it will all come back. Trust me.



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