The Pillowman | Company BPhotos - Heidrun Lohr

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No story is ever just a story. The stories we tell reflect our life experiences, even if we are not aware how. For these stories to come out, a writer will often have to go through shit. Sometimes, a whole lifetime of shit.

Anyone who saw playwright Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore at Belvoir St Theatre in 2003 is unlikely to forget it. Bodies were hacked to pieces with more  blood than a Tarantino flick. McDonagh's The Pillowman is a lot less bloody but no less horrific.

Katurian (Damon Herriman) has been detained by detectives Ariel (Dan Wyllie) and Tupolski (Marton Csokas). The detectives have 400 of his stories in their possession. The treatment of kids in these stories make Bill Henson’s photography look like happy snaps. Kids have been killed as described in the stories and Katurian, along with his retarded brother Michal, are the main suspects.

Katurian does not usually write about his own life. The one exception is the tale of a boy who was doted on by his parents as he began to write. Next door, his brother was constantly tortured for seven years. Gradually the stories became darker.

Plays that examine the nature of writing can become self indulgent and pretentious. This is not the case here. Each of us can reflect on the events that have made us who we are. Would it be better if we hadn’t lived through the darkest times?

McDonagh once again shows us his unique blend of black comedy and sheer terror. The banter of the detectives is reminiscent of Tom Stoppard, jumbled and slightly absurd. McDonagh knows how to use a running gag as a tension breaker and the gags never outstay their welcome.

All performances are outstanding. Wyllie adds roughness and a touch of sarcasm to Ariel. Herriman is warm and genuine as Katurian. While Steve Rodgers shows just the right amount of naivety as Michal.

At approximately 2 hours 40 minutes it is worth the late night. The blend of comedy and horror makes this playwriting at its best. Members of the Sydney constabulary should see this play before raiding any more art galleries.


Company B presents
THE PILLOWMAN
by Martin McDonagh

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills
Dates: 31 May - 13 July
Times: Tuesday 6.30pm, Wednesday to Friday 8pm, Saturday 2pm & 8pm, Sunday 5pm
Tickets: Full $54. Seniors (excluding Fri/Sat evenings) and Groups 10+ $45. Concession $33.
Student Rush $25 for Tuesday 6.30pm and Saturday 2pm, available from 10am on the day (subject to availability)
Bookings: 9699 3444 or www.belvoir.com.au

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