Here are a selection of the reviews and press for The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh:
Sunday Independent (Emer O’Kelly) ☆☆☆☆☆
“It is an unquestionably superlative production of a marvellous, thought-provoking play, to the point of being pretty well faultless. Directed tautly and sensitively by Andrew Flynn in a superbly executed and imaginative set by Owen MacCarthaigh, the play features Peter Campion as Katurian, David McSavage as Tupolski, and Gary Lydon as Ariel. All are magnificent, but it is Michael Ford-FitzGerald who is the most memorable as the insanely sane mentally handicapped brother Michal (sic) The “stories” are acted in mime by Jarlath Tivnan, Kate Murray, Peter Shine, Tara Finn and Rosa Makela. The Pillowman is well worth travelling for. Decadent Theatre Company and the Lyric Belfast have given The Pillowman its Irish premiere (at the Gaiety in Dublin; and touring to Everyman, Cork; and the Lyric).”
Belfast Telegraph (Grania McFadden) ☆☆☆☆
“Terrific performances by Peter Campion as the defiant writer, and Michael Ford-Fitzgerald as his damaged brother Michal are supported by the good cop, bad cop combination of David McSavage’s Tupolski and Gary Lydon’s Ariel. The play is overlong, weighed down by McDonagh’s penchant for repetition. But the chilling stories, and McDonagh’s concerns about the influence of the state – ‘We like executing writers,’ says Tupolski. ‘Dimwits we can execute any day of the week’ – make this an unsettling, must-see production.”
The Irish Independent (Katy Hayes)
“Gary Lydon is superb, building from a tough-guy start, and working the difficult ambiguities of the script to find its buried emotional core. David McSavage, a super comedian making his theatre debut, starts well with a strong ruthless presence and excellent comic timing. Peter Campion as the writer has perfect leading man DNA and Michael Ford-FitzGerald plays the damaged brother utterly persuasively.”
The Irish Times (Peter Crawley) ☆☆☆☆
“McDonagh’s play creates an artful mesh between reality and fiction and Decadent Theatre Company, entrusted with the play’s belated Irish premiere, respond to it with a clear sighted and brilliantly imaginative production… Decadent’s production makes it something more enjoyable, probing, diaphanous and unsettling. Anyone with a higher threshold for McDonagh should add another star to the rating above. Perhaps even two.”
The Irish Examiner (Padraic Killeen) ☆☆☆☆
“This shifting, sinewy plotting, wedded to McDonagh’s provocative comedy and wordplay, provides a delicious treat, with David McSavage and Gary Lydon as interrogators putting in particularly enjoyable.”
Irish News (Jane Hardy)
“As soon as Katurian starts telling us his stories, real and made-up, we enter that older world. The curtain opens in Owen MacCarthaigh’s superb set on to brightly coloured Freudian nightmares involving the pied piper of Hamelin who cuts off a little boy’s toes to save him from vanishing with the other kids. The morality is confusing and the only thing to hold on to is judgment.
On the way out, one woman remarked that she felt she had been laughing at things you shouldn’t laugh at.
Well, yes – some very bad parenting (ie abuse), Christianity generally, disability and so on. But in our post-Charlie Hebdo world, we need irreverence more than ever. At the end, Katurian is despatched, but his stories live on, ironically filed away in the police cupboard.”
Sunday Business Post ☆☆☆☆
”“The premiere of The Pillowman is well worth the wait”
“The four-man cast of Lydon, McSavage, Peter Campion as Katurian and Michael Ford-FitzGerald his brother, is so spell-bindingly perfect that McDonagh must certainly have written The Pillowman with the actors in mind. And director Andrew Flynn has done an Oscar worthy job for what is the first Irish production of the play by Decadent Theatre Company.”
The Public Reviews ☆☆☆☆
“Katurian is a complex character and on the whole Peter Campion does well to convey this. He delivers his lines with great pace in the interrogation scene and even gives attention to Katurian’s hunched posture in the delivery of one of the stories. However, Campion’s performance may be a little bewildered at times and could benefit with a little more restraint. Rather than focusing on how the character is bamboozled there could be more emphasis and refinement in the expression of Katurian’s internal/external rage.
Michael Ford-FitzGerald is brilliantly cast as Michal. His performance is endearing but he accurately captures Michal’s ingenious deceptiveness. Ford-FitzGerald has recognised Michal’s disability and disfigurement which has been portrayed with great sensitivity. Flynn has ensured his actors have drawn on their character’s history and this is reflected in their physicality.
The set, designed by Owen MacCárthaigh, is incredible. The set divides (and conquers) in the way it depicts the flashback/story sequences. The cell is a purgatorial space with one window and a never-ending height. As such it may draw comparisons with Beckett’s use of space in Endgame or even Waiting for Godot. It is both claustrophobic and expansive – it is a forbidding space from which the characters cannot escape.
Overall this is an excellent production of McDonagh’s play. The play is incredibly twisted and may make for difficult viewing for some. A warped sense of humour is considered necessary. The only real critique of the production is that some of the lead performances need to be more contained.
This a thought provoking play – harrowing but humorous.”
“McDonagh is a writer with a spark for the bizarre, and this structure allows him to push it past the boundaries of good taste. He delights in these freakish and grotesque tales of child murder and cruelty. With the success of In Bruges, there has been a new appraisal of his earlier work and this is an impressive production of a play rarely seen on these shores.
“Written 20 years ago, but unproduced until 2003, it has taken until now for Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman to receive its Irish premiere. The surprise of Decadent Theatre Company’s considered and imaginative production is that it may have been worth the wait. Director Andrew Flynn has already shown an intuitive and adventurous understanding of McDonagh’s work, and faced with what is the writer’s best play, he and designer Owen MacCarthaigh, sound designer Carl Kennedy and a well-placed cast enhance its grisly fairy tale dimensions while steadily undermining the reality of everything we see. “The first duty of a storyteller is to tell stories,” says the protagonist, a writer under the darkest of suspicions. Decadent reminds you, the second duty is the way you tell them.”
“Once upon a time there was a macabre play. Spoiler alert, it was outstanding. Go and see The Pillowman. What’s the worst that could happen? I suppose you may never sleep again and be haunted by visions of crucified children, little green pigs and the odd severed toe. Believe me though, it will be worth it. Martin Mc Donagh’s play is deeply surreal, dripping and oozing Kafka; certainly something-esque anyway. Peter Campion blazes to the stage with prowess as the imprisoned Katurian K. Katurian, writer and caring brother, whose only crime is an active, albeit perverse, imagination. This ghastly tale is set in a totalitarian state, policed by the likes of David McSavage and Gary Lydon who make a ruthless good cop/bad cop duo. The set was pulled straight from a nightmarish fantasy, and not a fluffy pillow in sight. The end.”
Decadent’s intention is to create theatre that is accessible to a wider audience, a goal which should be applauded, and for which The Pillowman is an excellent choice (it is both a behemoth of dramatic excellence and a stonking good night at the theatre). However, this earnest attitude may be responsible for some creative missteps that see Decadent’s Pillowman pack far less than its potential punch.
“On a side note, many of Katurian’s stories are wonderful little pieces of fiction in their own right (with one involving a twist relating to a classic tale my personal favourite), and enhance the play whenever one is read out or performed to us. Grim they may be, but they are certainly clever, writer Martin McDonagh deserving credit for using fables that would be enjoyable in their own right to enhance the wider play- the titular Pillowman, meanwhile, is a deeply poignant, tragic figure in one of these stories.
‘The Pillowman’ is a rich, thought-provoking, at times challenging piece of work, well-deserving of its run until mid April. See it for the fantastic set, impressive direction, excellent central performance, and the promise of being left with plenty to think about. One unfortunate incident during the first scene saw a disrespectful member of the audience leave the theatre, audibly announcing how little he was enjoying it. It was entirely his loss.”
“This is an excellent production of a tremendous play by Martin McDonagh, Decadent Theatre and The Lyric. Hats off to them and keep ‘em coming.”