The Pillowman ★★★ Duke of York's Theatre | Jun 10 - Sep 2, 2023

The writer, Katurian, has produced a series of stories which clearly mirror the murders of some local children. She or her mentally challenged brother, either individually or jointly, might be responsible for these terrible crimes. They are hauled into a local police station and are threatened with torture unless they reveal their involvement. Martin McDonagh has written a play that intends to keep the audience vacillating between horror and laughter as the grisly story comes out in the context of the absurdity of the interrogation. Unfortunately for us, the nature of the crimes was too numbing to allow for the intended dark humour to resonate. Katurian's stories, like The Pillowman itself, are mainly parables about the traumatic sources that may be a wellspring for much art. Similarly, the play reflects on the old chestnut of whether art influences or is responsible for its affect on people. The play begins with a half-remembered quotation about the responsibility of the storyteller being to tell a good story. In this case, the points are hammered home rather relentlessly and the mixture of horror, humour and aesthetic commentary wears thin. As Katurian, Lily Allen demonstrates some impressive acting chops, and both Steve Pemberton and Paul Kaye put in strong performances as her menacing interrogators who are full of comic repartee. The Pillowman will certainly have an audience, but for us the various components didn't mesh. Still, if you're up for an evening of Grand Guignol laced with some Theatre of the Absurd, this might be the perfect show for you.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Johan Persson

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When, Where, Getting there:
  • Jun 10 - Sep 2, 2023
  • Mon - Sat: 7:30 pm, Wed & Sat: 2:30 pm
  • Duke of York's Theatre
  • Nearest tube: Leicester Square

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