Monday, 27 September 2010

The Pillowman.

The drama society hit the ground running this evening with a slick and accomplished production of Martin McDonagh's dark comedy The Pillowman. The work was tight, focused and although occasionally lacking in pace felt assured and confident. A lot has been learnt in a year.

There were good performances all round. Sarah Marr is excellent as the detached Tupolski, ably supported by Gaz Wilson, as the brutish Ariel. Together they form a tight double act as interrogating police officers. Whilst Danny Gubba as the play's story telling protagonist Katurian and Michael O'Neill as his abused younger brother Michel find some touching moments of subtly in their sibling relationship. There's also a brilliant show stopping pillowman knocked up by Chatal Koning and Marion Huard.

If there is any criticism - and I did only see the first act - it's that the students didn't quite find the play's dark heart and worked mainly in a form of deadpan TV pseudo-naturalism rather than exploiting the more theatrical moments of Jacobean cruelty that are revealed through Katurin's short stories. There's more texture in the text and the true horror of the situation that the brothers find themselves in only really surfaces when you realise that both have been trapped in a circle of violence where each attempt to escape is read as a provocation for a further act of abuse. To be implicated in the real moral dilemma the writer proposes we need to see physically and mentally what Michel has become and feel protective of him - even as we learn how despicable his crimes have been.

The humour is there but so are the deeper questions of influence, responsibility and the limits of innocence. To really explore these themes required a braver approach to playing the principal characters.