Puneet Varma (Editor)

I'll Be The Devil

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Written by  Leo Butler
Setting  Ireland
Playwright  Leo Butler
Original language  English
First performance  2008
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Date premiered  2008 Royal Shakespeare Company at the Tricycle Theatre in London
Similar  Leo Butler plays, Other plays

I'll Be The Devil is a play by Leo Butler that was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and written in response to The Tempest by William Shakespeare. It was staged for the first time at the Tricycle Theatre in 2008 directed by Ramin Gray, and featured Derbhle Crotty, Tom Burke, John McInerny, and Gerard Murphy in the cast.



The play is set in Ireland during the 18th century. A soldier of the English army has two illegitimate children by his mistress, a local woman. His upcoming departure for England triggers a dramatic series of events. Young cattle-killer Dermot is a Celtic Caliban. He becomes the instrument of his mother Maryanne revenge against his own father, Lieutenant Coyle.

Butler said of the play, More than anything I want to put the audience in the eye of the storm. There are a lot of plays about war and colonialism that are wry and ironic and theoretical and that’s all very well, but it’s always taking a step backwards from the reality.


Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph said that "this lush, savage, nightmarish imagining of colonial Ireland circa 1762 suggests an imagination that has suddenly, gloriously and recklessly taken wing", claiming that he was "thrilled at the provocation of it, transfixed by its darkness" and that "as a vision of a world without hope, it is too terrifying to dismiss."

Andrew Billen of the New Statesman, however, "resented having been trapped in a room for 110 minutes with a work that took itself so seriously it did not even allow us an interval", commenting that "it was like being held hostage by a violent lunatic." While Michael Billington of The Guardian felt that "while Butler makes clear the irony of conscripted converts to Protestantism helping to oppress the local Catholics, he clouds the action with cloudy symbolism", admitting, however, that he "was left to enjoy the handful of scenes that really work". Rebecca Omonira, writing for IndieLondon, however, commented that the "enigmatic play had me – and the rest of the audience – enthralled from start to finish", praising it as "a graphic depiction of the worst of humanity" which "relentlessly shows how ordinary people become complicit conspirators in torture and rape.".

The Daily Mail praised it as "a gripping play and an extraordinary piece of writing which comes at you in a blizzard of diseased banter”, while Julie Carpenter writing for the Daily Express described it as "a violent, unforgiving and immensely powerful play that is not for the faint-hearted".

Other reviews

  • http://www.britishtheatreguide.info/reviews/illbedevil-rev
  • TB (28 February 2008). "I'll Be The Devil | Official London Theatre - Your London Shows guide". London, UK: The Society of London Theatre. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  • http://www.extraextra.org/Review_I'll_Be_the_Devil-08.html
  • References

    I'll Be The Devil Wikipedia

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