Coming to grips with ‘The Pillowman’

The Pillowman set

Brittany Breslin reviews: The Pillowman, Lyric Theatre, Belfast


I was recently invited along by my lovely friends at The Lyric Theatre to see the newest play by Martin McDonagh –‘The Pillowman’ – and boy, was I in for a surprise.  Choosing to know less rather than more about this one, I attended the play the day after its premiere having done very little research in advance.  In cases of Martin McDonagh, sometimes it’s just better to be surprised – and I was certainly caught off guardby this one.

The opening act of ‘The Pillowman’ introduces the audience to aspiring writer Katurian Katurian (played by the stunning Peter Campion), who has been imprisoned by two crooked cops (David McSavage and Gary Lydon).  Katurian does not know why he has been arrested, except that it has something to do with stories he has written, and it is later revealed that these stories could be the connection between some heinouscrimes under investigation and someone very close to Katurian – his own brother.

The first act of ‘The Pillowman’ is one of intense drama where we dive further into the crime of which Katurian is being accused.  So intense – in fact – that with the arrival of the interval I reached for my bag and planned to make my way home, completely unaware that there could be even moredrama! Surely that was enough? Apparently not.  MCDonaghhas a brilliant way of making you feel like you’re starting to come to grips with a character, and then making you realise how little you really knew.  As someone who considers herself a very good judge of character, I found this element of the play the most intriguing, as I was fooled numerous times by the play’s characters.


As with any of Martin McDonagh’s black comedies, the audience can expect some rather unexpected twists in the plot of ‘The Pillowman’ as well as a number of moments which will have you questioning the existence of its own moral compass.  The second act of this intense drama packs even more punches than the first, offering plenty of chances for some serious self-analysis on the part of the audience. Questions I found myself asking during this play included: ‘Did we all really just laugh at a little girl being force-fed razor blades?” and “Am I actually crying with laughter over a character with an itchy arse?” This is the type of show that turns all sense of propriety and humour in general on its head.

‘The Pillowman’ is definitely best enjoyed with a friend, as in my case a lengthy debrief over a few glasses of wine at the Lyric’s bar was very much needed post-show to fully digest what we had just witnessed.  ‘The Pillowman’ will make you laugh, cry, and completely detest the horrible human being you have become since entering The Lyric.

Having already won two Tony Awards and the Olivier Award for Best New Play, ‘The Pillowman’ is running at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre until 19th April.  

Get down and see this whopper of a play before it’s too late!


Post Author: Belfast Times

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