Edward Kilcullen is the almost entirely disinherited son of a local landowner, whose legacy is reduced to one small cottage, in which live his newly acquired tenants, Anabella and her mother, both almost totally penniless.
Edward and Annabella fall in love and marry, but this is not enough to cure Edward of the flaw that he believes may have led to his disinheritance: drunkenness. He ranges from from tavern to ditch in search of drink, as though pursued by some evil spirit.
In fact, the evil spirit that pursues him is McGinty, the lawyer who served Edward's father. McGinty is possessed of a profound bitterness against the Kilcullen family, and is sworn to reduce Edward even further than the drunk-sopped destitution towards which he drives himself. Is there anyone who can save Edward and his new family from the thirst that rises incessantly in his throat?
The Drunkard is an adaptation of a nineteenth-century play of the same name written by the pseudonymous authors "W. H. Smith and a gentleman", the latter believed by many to be P. T. Barnum. Murphy adapted the play for the b*spoke Theatre Company, who premiered the play at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway, in 2003.