Dread­time sto­ries

The Pil­low­man is a dark com­edy of twisted tales and un­pleas­ant fates.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Arts - By TER­ENCE TOH star2@thes­tar.com.my

DO you like happy, whole­some sto­ries? Do you like whim­si­cal tales of princesses and cas­tles, of magic and chivalry, where ev­ery­thing is wrapped up in a hap­pily-ever af­ter?

If you are, then be­ware of the short sto­ries by Ka­turian Ka­turian. Less Dis­ney and more de­spair, Ka­turian’s frac­tured fairy tale-style sto­ries are filled with blood, suf­fer­ing, and ter­ri­ble things hap­pen­ing to chil­dren.

If those sto­ries sound like your cup of tea (or blood?), how­ever, then The­atre Three Sixty’s new pro­duc­tion of The Pil­low­man, a crit­i­cally-ac­claimed play by Bri­tish Ir­ish play­wright Martin McDon­agh, might be the per­fect tonic.

The Pil­low­man will be show­ing at the Black Box, En­finiti Acad­emy, Kota Da­mansara in Petaling Jaya from July 20-30.

The play tells the story of Ka­turian, a writer who lives un­der a to­tal­i­tar­ian regime. He is de­tained by two po­lice­men, Ariel and Tupol­ski, af­ter they dis­cover that his sto­ries, (many of which con­tain mur­dered chil­dren!) have sim­i­lar­i­ties to a se­ries of bizarre lo­cal child mur­ders.

It is soon dis­cov­ered, how­ever, that there is more to the sit­u­a­tion than it first ap­pears, es­pe­cially as Ka­turian’s un­usual his­tory is re­vealed.

The Pil­low­man, con­trary to its ti­tle, will prob­a­bly not be giv­ing any­one sweet dreams.

“The play is es­sen­tially (set) in two worlds. There’s re­al­ity and fan­tasy, and they even­tu­ally col­lide,” says di­rec­tor Nicole An­nThomas, who’s al­ways been a fan of the play, which pre­miered in Lon­don in 2003.

“I read the script a few years ago, and it re­ally res­onated with me. I told my­self, ‘I’m go­ing to di­rect this play one day’. This year, I had the chance to!” she adds.

Ac­tor Ivan Chan is cer­tain the play will have an au­di­ence here.

“The Pil­low­man has a great script, with great char­ac­ters. There’s a ‘dirt­i­ness’ to things. Each char­ac­ter is very com­plex, with their own dark his­to­ries. They all have their own skele­tons in their closet,” says Chan with some rel­ish.

Writ­ten by Ir­ish play­wright Martin McDon­agh, The Pil­low­man won the 2004 Lau­rence Oliver Award for Best New Play. In­ter­est­ingly enough, these dark themes have crossed over and the play has been per­formed in many lan­guages around the world.

Apart from Chan, this lo­cal pro­duc­tion fea­tures the tal­ents of Qa­har Aqi­lah, Arief Hamizan, Phraveen Arikiah, Esther Liew, Vinna Law, Vale Wong and Mar­vin Wong. It is pro­duced by spe­cial ar­range­ment with Sa­muel French, Ltd, and fea­tures pro­duc­tion de­sign by Christopher Ling and mu­sic by Vale Wong.

The play raises themes of the power of sto­ries and writ­ers, and the im­por­tance of the free­dom of thought and speech. It ques­tions the lines be­tween truth and fic­tion.

“Ka­turian’s sto­ries mimic fairy­tales, and cap­tures the bru­tal­ity in them,” says Arief, who plays Ka­turian.

“The dis­tinct fac­tor about them is they don’t have morals. They are very ex­is­ten­tial­ist in that sense. They say that is how life is. The sto­ries show things as they are, in­stead of try­ing to send a mes­sage,” he adds.

The Pil­low­man’s syn­op­sis may sound rather bleak, but di­rec­tor Ann-Thomas as­sures view­ers it does have el­e­ments of a dark com­edy.

“You get a lot of hu­mour from the po­lice of­fi­cers, and Ka­turian. It’s in the writ­ing. We don’t need to force any of it out, McDon­agh has al­ready done a good job with it. As long as the ac­tors re­ally mean what they say, the hu­mour comes out,” says Ann-Thomas.

She adds that while other pro­duc­tions had used pro­jec­tions or back­drops to por­tray Ka­turian’s fairy­tales, hers will be done through phys­i­cal the­atre, which she has de­vised with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the show’s en­sem­ble.

Law is look­ing for­ward to the ro­bust take on The Pil­low­man.

“The chal­lenge has been to por­tray the play’s sto­ries in dif­fer­ent and in­ter­est­ing ways. We have a num­ber of sto­ries, all very dif­fer­ent, and if we do it in the same way, it won’t be in­ter­est­ing for the au­di­ence,” says Law.

“A lot of the sto­ries are quite vi­o­lent. But there’s ac­tu­ally a bit of warmth in ev­ery sin­gle story. And I hope the au­di­ence will be able to feel it. The hu­man­ity in all that vi­o­lence,” she con­cludes.

The Pil­low­man will be show­ing at the Black Box, En­finiti Acad­emy, No 28-1, Jalan PJU 5/20D, The En­corp Strand, Kota Da­mansara PJU 5, Petaling Jaya, in Se­lan­gor from July 20-30. Show­times are 8.30pm (July 20-22 and July 25-29) and 3pm on July 23 and 30. There is no show on July 24. Tick­ets are RM43 and RM33 (con­ces­sion). For ma­ture au­di­ences only. Tick­ets: www.tix­ipro.com/the­atreth reesixty/. For more info, visit the­atrethree­sixty.com.

TAR­RANT KWOK

In The Pil­low­man, Qa­har (left, stand­ing) and Chan (right, stand­ing) play de­tec­tives Tupol­ski and Ariel re­spec­tively, while Phraveen (left) and Arief, play the char­ac­ters Michal and Ka­turian. —

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