The Pillowman is on the Moor

Martin McDonagh

When a fledgling, energetic Wexford writer meets theatre at its very best

I urge you to try and imagine the simple, yet excitable melodies circling in the mind of the author on a Monday morning on his way up to The Green Apple to witness the first reading of The Pillowman, in the presence of the one and only Martin McDonagh.

And all this done upon the request of a friend who has asked for a writer. But if, like your esteemed author, you had also attended previously Decadent Theatre Company’s production of A Skull in Connemara (another of Mr. McDonagh’s works) in The Gaiety Theatre, you then perhaps would understand my excitement and wonderment.

Especially so, perhaps, if you were to learn that I would be read to in this first meeting of the actors by such figures as David McSavage, forceful and artful actor and comedian; Gary Lydon, who most recently played a role alongside Brendan Gleeson in the excellent Calvary; and Peter Campion, who a vast chunk of the country know from his role in the popular Love/Hate series. The day, I thought to myself, would at the very least be interesting.

The Pillowman Cast

Peter Campion, Michael Ford-FitzGerald, Gary Lydon and David McSavage

And so it proved. I was ushered down a shady alleyway to a back door, wound down weaving corridors, and eventually found myself in a Green Room. Here, there were nerves and tea and polite introductions to the cast, crew and production team of The Pillowman.

Very soon, however, we found ourselves in a small room with a long wooden table in the middle. Introductions were warmly confirmed by Andrew Flynn, the Commander In Chief. Many important characters were present and accounted for: writers, lighters, benefactors and actors.

Without hesitation and under experienced hands, the reading began; we sat and listened, transfixed.

With no previous experience working the lines together, everyone’s copy of the play out and being put to good use, and no warm-up or advice from the author of the play whatsoever, the four main actors began to read long monologues convincingly, deliver short comical quips with bite, and display power and subtlety and mastery of their characters. It was a delight, and the atmosphere of the room was in turn compelling, dark, and rich.

Martin McDonagh – the playwright of The Pillowman – was also in attendance. Over the past few years, Martin McDonagh has become a household name. He’s brought us some amazing plays, fantastic films and, let’s face it – the man knows how to write a seriously engaging plot. Despite numerous accolades, this thespian legend, old friend of Andrew Flynn, and Decadent’s own point-of-reference for all questions related to our production of The Pillowman was a kind, quiet and engaging individual throughout the reading.

Martin McDonaghI found myself listening to David McSavage and Peter Campion for the first time, wondering how I had let my general distaste for TV get in the way of enjoying two such artists.

If I could go back in time and was feeling whimsical and controversial, I might go back to around the turn of the millennium, and convince the casting directors for the first Harry Potter movies to consider McSavage for Snape; Rickman was good, but David McSavage has a drier, juicier delivery of character.

Whereas Peter Campion, playing Katurian Katurian Katurian and closer in age to myself, was stirring an irrepressible thought in me: that I might like to try treading the boards myself (as they say), such was the strength of his performance.

Gary Lydon, whom I recognised but didn’t know much about and who plays the bad cop, Ariel, growled convincingly from his first cockney line till the end. The interplay between McSavage’s character, a.k.a. Tupolski, and Ariel, was snappy from the start.

Then, an actor I didn’t recognise at all: Michael Ford-Fitzgerald, playing Michal. If I were to pick an outstanding performance from the morning, it would be tough but it would be Michael. His Michal was basically fully realised, very fondly portrayed and completely comical.

The excellence of the play and of the sublime reading by the varied artists, including the supporting work of Jarlath Tivnan, Kate Murray, Peter Shine, and Tara Finn, made it easily bearable, and when the heat got to me – I was in the unfortunate position of having lost at musical chairs when we entered The Reading Room and was subsequently perched on the windowsill above an active radiator for the duration of the drama – I convinced myself I was suffering for the arts.

And I have a terrifically strong feeling that it will be worth it; The Pillowman opens in Galway Town Hall Theatre on the 19th of February for a ten day run, and I, for one, hope to be making the journey from Wexford to be there.

If you enjoyed this story I’m sure you’ll love Decadent’s Saga with McDonagh’s The Pillowman by Gerry Barnes or The Politics of Place in McDonagh’s The Pillowman by Owen Barnes. The Pillowman will open in Galway Town Hall Theatre on the 19th February, in the Gaiety Theatre on March 2nd , The Everyman on March 16th,  and in The Lyric on the 24th of March in 2015.

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