Writer: Martin McDonagh
Director: Andrew Flynn
Reviewer: Caitriona M Reilly (with Megan W. Minogue)
If you are easily offended you should avoid Decadent Theatre Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.
Katurian (Peter Campion) is a writer living in a totalitarian dictatorship ‘where the police boast that they like to execute writers’. Katurian is being interrogated in a cell by detectives Tupolski (David McSavage) and Ariel (Gary Lydon). He is clueless as to his crime. Eventually the detectives ask Katurian about his beloved stories and the horrific deaths of three young children. Meanwhile in a neighbouring cell, Katurian’s “retarded” brother Michal (Michael Ford-FitzGerald) is being questioned/tortured. After begging to see his beloved brother, Katurian and Michal are reunited and the many twists of the play are revealed.
This is a play which addresses numerous themes and issues such as police injustice, communism, familial loyalty, and the power of storytelling. However, it is the themes of child abuse, neglect, and murder which really challenge audiences. Who are the victims in this play; does one person’s abuse justify their actions? The play raises numerous ethical and moral questions. Considering the audience’s laughter at child murders, are they in some way complicit with the children’s abuse? The laughter of the audience could suggest that they are desensitised to such information however what they are really laughing at is McDonagh’s black comedy.
The language of McDonagh’s play is fantastically dark and lyrical. Director Andrew Flynn has ensured that the actors have kept the fast pace the script lends itself to. The dialogue is quick and sharp, and one could become lost in following the dialogue. However Flynn and the actors ensure the audience is mesmerized by McDonagh’s skilful writing.
Katurian is a complex character and on the whole Peter Campion does well to convey this. He delivers his lines with great pace in the interrogation scene and even gives attention to Katurian’s hunched posture in the delivery of one of the stories. However, Campion’s performance may be a little bewildered at times and could benefit with a little more restraint. Rather than focusing on how the character is bamboozled there could be more emphasis and refinement in the expression of Katurian’s internal/external rage.
Michael Ford-FitzGerald is brilliantly cast as Michal. His performance is endearing but he accurately captures Michal’s ingenious deceptiveness. Ford-FitzGerald has recognised Michal’s disability and disfigurement which has been portrayed with great sensitivity. Flynn has ensured his actors have drawn on their character’s history and this is reflected in their physicality.
The set, designed by Owen MacCárthaigh, is incredible. The set divides (and conquers) in the way it depicts the flashback/story sequences. The cell is a purgatorial space with one window and a never-ending height. As such it may draw comparisons with Beckett’s use of space in Endgame or even Waiting for Godot. It is both claustrophobic and expansive – it is a forbidding space from which the characters cannot escape.
Overall this is an excellent production of McDonagh’s play. The play is incredibly twisted and may make for difficult viewing for some. A warped sense of humour is considered necessary. The only real critique of the production is that some of the lead performances need to be more contained.
This a thought provoking play – harrowing but humorous.
Photo courtesy of the Lyric Theatre. Runs until 16th April 2015.