The set moves between an interrogation room and a prison cell, with occasional wanderings into forests and nightmares.
Lily Allen plays Katurian, a writer held in connection to a number of local child murders – thanks to the chilling similarity they bear to her own disturbing stories.
It’s not gratuitously graphic. Delivered as it is in the large by Katurian’s sympathetic character’s words, this beautifully innocent and entreating performance doesn’t demand our shock but merely asks us to listen. The child does not want to stay silent anymore.
Fans of Oscar and BAFTA winning screenplay writer Martin McDonagh will not be disappointed by this first-class stage production.
You can get your tickets here.
The Pillowman carries all the witty trademarks of the writer behind Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and In Bruges. Juxtaposing the brutally violent with the banal and the literal, McDonagh’s hallmark humour will have you laughing out loud.
Sensational cast members Steve Pemberton and Paul Kaye are responsible for a lot of these laughs. As the cool and calculating detective, and furious unrestrained copper, they represent the absolute worst of the authoritarian state Katurian lives in.
Things feel painfully current as the dialogue treads into the realms of artistic freedom. No distinction is made between violent words of fiction and violent acts – one begets the other.
The Pillowman is spectacularly sinister, and though deserving of the capacious grandeur of The Duke of York’s glorious auditorium, I’d love to see it on a smaller stage.
I want to feel suffocated, I want to be closer, I want to feel trapped as Katurian is in her interrogation; as her brother was once trapped by his tormentors.
Then again maybe it’s a mercy the audience isn’t so suffocated. Harder to laugh at murder when the blood spatter reaches your face.
This is a play about storytelling written by an expert storyteller. Don’t wait.
The Pillowman will run at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London until 2 September 2023.