Review: The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh

Alex Webb reads and reflects on ‘The Pillowman’, a Pinter-esque play by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh…

Sit down and I will tell you a story. This one is about Katurian, Tupolski and Ariel, one, a writer, and the others, policemen, who interrogate the former about a recent bout of murders. McDonagh’s The Pillowman is a children’s story not to be missed. However, do not expect a story about little pigs and friendly giants, although these all feature, because this script is about children, and the death of them.

Written in 2003, this Irish play has you enter an interrogation room, just as ignorant as Katurian, who could be considered the main character. The basis of the narrative is that you find out what is happening as Katurian, a writer, does, with intriguing results. It would be an understatement to say that The Pillowman is simply “chilling” as you’re taken on a journey where you meet characters such as “The Little Jesus” and the title character who all have darker twists than you’d imagine at first glance. If there is one moral to take from this drama it is this: just because someone tells you something, it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Creating a tense atmosphere from the start you learn about Katurian’s sickening stories that have the characters, and the audience, asking “what sort of criminal is worse than a rapist or murderer?”. It is through these questions, the tales related to them and the character’s responses that McDonagh’s characterisation shines. Showing phenomenal skill in such a short story, spanning just over one-hundred pages, you will be ready to re-read it as soon as you put the book down. If I had to criticise this text it would be the shallow plot that could be so much more, but needn’t be. Based in one setting: an interrogation room, McDonagh’s engaging narrative is more than enough to have almost anyone read it cover-to-cover wanting more.

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Overall, I cannot praise this play enough, from the moment I put it down it had shot up to become one of my favourite books and within half an hour I had already recommended it to most of my flatmates. Even if you are not one for reading, I beg you to go to your nearest bookstore and pick up this drama. Whilst you may be disgusted, you will not be disappointed.

-Alex Webb

(reference: McDonagh, Martin; The Pillowman; (Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 2003).

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