Content warning: sexual abuse, child abuse, ableism, suicide, murder, torture, police brutality.
As you can tell by the extended list of content warnings above, Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Before watching the show, I thought it was a pretty bold move for director Charlie Prothero to suggest a play with such emotionally hindering content. But right from the very start, I was totally gripped and on the edge of my seat.
From the shrilling violin played by Georgina Abram to the thrilling monologues delivered with perfection by Cassidy Worlock and Jon Deery, every aspect of The Pillowman is worthy of a five-star review.
The Pillowman follows the story of writer Katurian K. Katurian (yes, the script makes fun of this name on several occasions), portrayed by Cassidy Worlock, as he is interrogated in a police cell for the content of his short stories, and their oddly-similar nature to a series of child-murders that have happened in his town. Whilst you may think that the content of this play would be incredibly dark and leave you pondering over its horrendous nature for hours, the play itself highlighted the fine line between comedy and tragedy.
NUTS’ adaptation is an utter mastery and (without getting too soppy), Prothero should be incredibly proud. From the start, you are transported to the police cell - which was made all the more realistic due to the intimate size of the audience. There is someone sitting on the chair, with a fabric bag over their head and you don’t realise until after the play begins that this is Katurian (a choice that Warlock made herself). Aside from this, Lucy Duncan’s character, Detective Tupolski, is the first the enter the stage. Duncan’s harsh and stern persona perfectly encapsulates the police state within which this play is set. Along with her second in command, Ariel (Oscar Errington), she torments Katurian through a series of long-winded sentences that I don’t think made any sense at all. The pace of the dialogue between the two detectives and Katurian is perfect, with a range of brief exclamations and lengthy monologues delivered with perfection to keep the audience engaged. Equally, Errington’s performance really encapsulates the trauma felt by his character.
An ode must be paid to Jon Deery, playing Katurian’s brother. Michal. Whilst he was only in one, albeit very long, scene, Deery’s characterisation could not be faulted at all. His portrayal of a character who had an incredibly traumatic upbringing was delivered with sensitivity, yet he had the audience in stitches time and time again. Despite this only being his second production as part of NUTS, I feel that Deery’s repertoire will only grow, and am amazed by the vast range of emotions that he is capable of.
The performances by Chloe Mendez and Daniella Orlic are ones that I won’t forget quickly. Despite having very little stage time and few lines, the way that Prothero was able to utilise them as part of the set really highlights the creative direction.
Overall, this NUTS production was fantastic! The audience was transported on a journey, and I felt like I was on the front row of an emotional rollercoaster. The Pillowman really shows why I keep coming back for more NUTS productions!