Review: The Pillowman

The two brothers Michal and Katurian are being interrogated by two detectives, Ariel and Tupolski. A number of gruesome child murders have been carried out in the exact same way as writer, Katurian’s stories.

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Review: The Pillowman

The Pillowman is currently showing at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I should preface this review by saying The Pillowman is my favourite play I have ever read. I had not had the opportunity to see it performed until now. It truly fits into Martin McDonagh’s style of play- the dark comedy. The two brothers Michal and Katurian are being interrogated by two detectives, Ariel and Tupolski. A number of gruesome child murders have been carried out in the exact same way as writer, Katurian’s stories. I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil the twists and turns that occur.

The first thing to mention about this production is the change of Katurian’s gender to be female. Going in I wondered how much it would matter as there are definitely a lot of themes of masculinity in all of McDonagh’s plays- however, if there was any character you were going to swap it is going to be Katurian. The role is played by Lily Allen, who is most well known for being a singer, but recently had her stage debut in 2:22 Ghost Story. She mostly did a good job for what is a very difficult role to play- my only criticisms of her performance come when she is required to show extreme emotion, which felt a little over dramatic- and yes there is such a thing in theatre!

She is joined by another well-known star, Steve Pemberton, who takes on the role of supposedly ‘good cop’ Tupolski- although arguably there are no good cop’s here only ‘a bad cop and a worse cop’. Pemberton certainly gets Tupolski’s quiet confidence, however, I think misses out a little bit on his sinisterness.

Matthew Tennyson takes on the role of Michal- an individual who suffers with learning difficulties because of the abuse at the hands of his parents. Tennyson did an incredibly good job in what is always a controversial role that stirs up the question of whether Michal should be played by an actor with learning difficulties. I think it is a difficult question to answer- and for the same reason I found the presence of two child actors in the show a little uncomfortable, I think there are certainly elements and topics within the show that may be hard for an actor with learning difficulties to take on.

Finally, the cast is completed with the actor who portrays Ariel. I saw the understudy- Daniel Millar. Millar gave a good performance, and apart from one awkward fight scene- you would never know he was in fact the understudy. I think the way to overall describe the performances of the cast was good- it was nothing special, but it certainly wasn’t bad.

I think that’s how I will describe the performance, as a whole. I mean perhaps there’s something for going in and knowing all the twists, so I was expecting everything- I just wasn’t wowed. The staging certainly represented what one might imagine a mixture of an office and interrogation room might look like. The costumes were also very simple- it played well into the non-specific location and time period that makes sure the play doesn’t feel outdated. In general, an incredible play, with a good performance directed by Matthew Dunster. However, I did leave wishing I had been old enough to see the original performance directed by John Crowley.

  • Show title: The Pillowman
  • Venue: Duke of York’s Theatre
  • Review date: Monday 7th August
Header Image Credit: Empire Street Productions

Author

Georgia Mussellwhite

Georgia Mussellwhite Voice Reviewers

1st Class BA Drama and Screen Studies graduate from the University of Manchester. Currently working at a Boarding School as a Drama Teacher and Resident Tutor.

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