Jul 8, 2008

The Pillowman

The Pillowman, currently playing at the Belvoir Theatre, is winning many plaudits and I can agree that they are all completely warranted. This piece of theatre is a thrilling example of the medium at its very best. Sparkling dialogue and expert acting combine to create a performance that will stay with you long after the curtain comes down. The Pillowman is dark, brutal, hilarious and revealing. A reminder of the stark immediacy that only theatre can offer.

This play was written in 2003 by English playwright Martin McDonagh and has enjoyed successful runs in London and New York. The play begins with Katurian (Damon Herriman), a young short story writer who has been arrested for a crime that he believes he didn't commit. His stories are often grisly affairs that depict the murders of small children. Two policeman, the brutal Ariel (Dan Wyllie) and the sarcastic Tupolski (Marton Csokas) have arrested the writer because some of his stories resemble those of recent child murders. Katurian's younger brother Michal (Steve Rodgers), who is 'slow to get things' is also brought into the police station and both brothers are systematically interrogated and tortured. To further complicate matters, the action takes place in an anonymous totalitarian state, so the audience and the brothers can feel the rights of the protagonists being slowly denied. What unfolds is a darkly delicious story. We learn of the disturbing background of the brothers and their parents. Trust me, it is very disturbing. We also hear Katurian's stories woven into the play, read out by either the writer or the policemen. They are dark and disturbing tales, full of sadness and blackness. One in particular, that gives its title to the name of the play, is an unrelentingly sad tale of suicide and snuffed out lives. At its heart is the very essence of the play. The terrible things that are done to your youth and the dire consequences that follow, the very knowledge that a young life corrupted can never be made right. All of the stories have a marvelous twist too, that will keep you thoroughly guessing the outcome. It's not all gloom though. There is a rich vein of black humour running through out, that will leave you in stitches and not wishing to run into a dark, hidden corner.

The performances are excellent. Herriman as the young writer shows a remarkable vulnerability well suited to the part, whilst Csokas is absolutely wonderful as the cynical and intelligent Tupolski. His delivery is expert and his presence dominates every scene. This play is intensely mesmerising. It often goes places that you wish it wouldn't. It is dark and disturbed, a macabre tale full of horror and intrigue. It often straddles the line between reality and fantasy, but it manages to pull it off. Gallows humour and scintillating dialogue make for a rewarding experience. And despite the dark nature of the material there is a ray of hope at the end, just enough to give you that feeling that kindness can still exist in even the cruelest of worlds.

The Belvoir is holding a free debrief in their theatre at 6pm on July 9.


  • At July 08, 2008 , Anonymous Angus said...

    I actually saw a production of this back in 2005 in New York City, with Billy Crudup and Jeff Goldblum in the leads. It was simply amazing, and this is coming from a guy who generally can't stand theatre. Unless said theatre has caught on fire.

  • At July 08, 2008 , Anonymous Karen said...

    Angus I reckon it would be a great play to take someone to who really didn't enjoy theatre as a rule.

    It wigged me out initially - I didn't quite know WHAT to think when the lights went up. I think I over-analyzed some aspects of it though, and since I saw it I haven't stopped thinking about it. Which I guess is the mark of a great play. I really loved the whole experience of it.


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