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