The Pillowman | Character Synopsis
The four main characters Martin McDonagh gives us in The Pillowman are two captives (a murder suspect and his brother), and two captors (the two detectives who have brought them in for questioning). When a story is unspecified totalitarian state where everyone has vaguely Eastern European names, one would think the antagonists and protagonists easy to spot. However, Martin McDonagh seems to have drawn from the great Russian tradition of making his main characters utterly unlikeable, and tragically, comedically realistic.
There’s always something titillatingly voyeuristic about a play whose author has created a character who happens to be a “lily-livered” writer— and then toys with him mercilessly. McDonagh’s writer, Katurian (Peter Campion), is accused of murders that mirror his precious life’s work, 400 stories, the recurring theme of which is mutilating children. Despite his taste for the macabre, Katurian is keen to not cause any real trouble. He has been brought to an undisclosed location blindfolded, and without reason, yet he is eager to cooperate with his captors. Although he is trapped in the interrogation room, his deliciously un-comforting stories and memories transport the audience outside the prison walls in a series of disturbing tableaux. Walking through the Creepy-Dark-Forest of his mind, the audience meets sadistic parents, naive children and even the Pied Piper.
Besides the posterity of his writing, Katurian’s only concern is for his brother, Michal (Michael Ford-FitzGerald), who the detectives are keeping in the adjoining room. Michal is a year older than his brother, but due to extensive brain damage, he seems more like Katurian’s child than his sibling. He loves stories and has an infantile disposition, taking everything at face value. He isn’t too worried about being locked in prison and the impending executions of himself and his brother, but that is perhaps due to the blissful ignorance of being only semi-socialised. It is perhaps his childlike innocence that keeps the lower ranking detective, Ariel (Gary Lydon) from actually harming him.
Ariel, the Costello to his partner’s Abbott, is as keen to bludgeon anyone to death as Katurian is to suck up. He has a soft-spot for children, complimented by an extreme hatred of anyone who harms a child. As with most brutal thugs with a gooey caramel centre, he has a secret past of his own, which his partner taunts him with, much to his chagrin. He fluctuates wildly from “Hulk smash” to indignation at Tupolski’s treatment of him.
Tupolski (David McSavage) is the clever lead detective, and self-proclaimed good cop (albeit somewhat sardonically) to Ariel’s bad cop. “I am a high-ranking police officer in a totalitarian fucking dictatorship. What are you doing taking my word about anything?” In his consequentialist take, he is the hero and the brains of the operation— any colouring outside the lines is vindicated by his quest for justice. He even recounts a parable he has composed himself to his prisoner, seeking a gold star for his creativity and bravado.
KATURIAN: That’s a good story. That’s something-esque. What kind of “esque” is it? I can’t remember. I don’t really go in for that “esque” sort of stuff anyway, but there’s nothing wrong with that story. Is there?
The Pillowman will open in Galway Town Hall Theatre and 19th February, in the Gaiety Theatre Dublin on March 2nd , The Everyman Cork on March 16th, and in Lyric Theatre Belfast on the 24th of March in 2015.
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