Pillowman Paperback – Nov 25 2003
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Energizing . . . a blindingly bright black comedy. (Ben Brantley, The New York Times)
A complex tale about life and art, about fact and illusion, about politics, society, cruelty and creativity. (Alastair Macaulay, Financial Times)
Martin McDonagh, master of bad taste in black comedy's cause and persistent enfant terrible, leaps towards maturity in this dazzling, disquieting nightmare of a play which makes up its own Grimm fairy-tales. (Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard)
A play of extraordinary power and stunning theatrical bravura. (Michael Coveney, Daily Mail)
From the Inside Flap
Praise for author Martin McDonagh:
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"McDonagh is destined to be one of the theatrical luminaries of the 21st century." --The New Republic
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A writer is being interrogated because the stories he writes often allude to the murder of children in hideous ways; children in the totalitarian state of his residence are now being killed in ways like the ones mentioned in the writer's work. Add to this the writer's mentally impaired brother and occasional acting out of his stories and you have complete, satisfying, darkly humorous and utterly theatrical play. The Pillowman is a beautifully ugly depiction of the the necessity of stories--to pain us, to heal us. It's quite a page-turner!
Martin McDonagh, a prized playwright with a biting and controversial wit for the stage, has absolutely nailed a generation piece with his play, The Pillowman. As anyone in theatre will tell you, it's all about the journey. Katurian has had an interesting journey, and his circumstances proved to be even more interesting at the beginning of the play. The cold, desolate, and unforgiving world he's a part of accuses him of a heinous crime, leaving him thinking it was merely his stories he wrote that encouraged other acts of crime...
He and his brother selectively retell their story through Katurian's stories that act as tiny plays-within-the-play and give the reader / audience member a clearer understanding of the context.
Kind of a side-note, if I may. I was fortunate enough to see the production at the Steppenwolf in Chicago because of my University's Theatre Department that paid for it, and there were about 120 of us that were in the audience that night. The Steppenwolf has a talk-back with the actors that we were very much looking forward to, ready to pick the minds of the actors who were fortunate enough to perform this biting piece.
One of the first questions that the artistic director was faced with from an older audience member was why people were laughing during the show... This sentiment was shared with about 3/4 of the talk-back audience of around 200 or so in the theatre, and the artistic director kind of got the 'deer-in-headlights' look about him as he explained a little about the piece to the patrons. In response to their question, one of our students approached it in the sense of irony and absurdity that ran rampant throughout the text. It's funny because it's so far-fetched, but at the same time so relevant to our generation and society that it was like looking at certain portions of ourselves on stage when looking at the characters.
Another little gem, one of the actors told us in the talk-back, was that one of the original actors playing Katurian had asked during rehearsals if there were more stories where these came from... Martin McDonagh was in the house that evening and told him simply, yes. The next day he brought in all over 200 stories that he based this play on and set them on the stage. Some were typed, some were hand-written, some on napkins and scraps of paper... but they were all there.
The stories are real, the journey that the audience and reader alike experience is real, and in the theatre, you couldn't ask for anything better.
I will start off by stating that I tend to not like reading plays. However, once in a while, I will come across one that reads well as literature. The Pillowman is definitely one of them. The dialogue is exciting, the plot is most definitely a page-turner, and it is quite funny (in a sadistic way, but more credit to McDonagh for pulling it off). What Mr. McDonagh deals with as his theme is the importance and power and necessity of telling a story, and he presents it in a multi-layered way that is entertaining and clever. Not only is there manipulation of time, but there is also the interesting notion that we are listening to a story of a bunch of characters that like to tell and listen to stories. The overall feel is definitely a little creepy.
McDonagh has a rather unique voice, and although he does not create amazing personalities, his style is entertaining enough on its own; the stylized dialogue is semi-poetic and is interesting to listen to. Let's just say there's a smooth flow to it.
This play is extremely dark and sadistic, yet hilarious in multiple parts (and generally funny thoughout). Balancing this tightrope act is not easy, but I would definitely say McDonagh does a good job of it. This play actually had me laughing out loud at points, which is relatively rare for me when reading plays. For example, even reading translations of Moliere almost never make me laugh, and he is considered arguably the greatest humorist we've ever had. Thus, overall, The Pillowman was a fun read (nothing extremely profound for me), and I would definitely reccomend it.