It will be a lean Christmas now that the villagers have failed to sell their wares at the market in the town. Glum, if not devastated, they gather in John Mahony's shop-cum-pub to sing songs, drink a little and worry for the season ahead. Among them is Costello, a gregarious man, full of laughter, who has seen the world perhaps a little more than the others and knows how to hold their attention.
When a stranger and his wife, grounded by the bad weather from getting back to their homes, enter the inn, a peculiar challenge emerges: that he, the stranger, is a better laugher than Costello. Betting begins on this uncanny contest, with stakes so high it becomes a matter of life or death for Costello, for the stranger, and for Mahony in whose house they convive.
A Thief of a Christmas was first produced at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in December 1985.