The Pillowman

The NNT Autumn season draws to a close…


“Let’s not destabilise the prisoner with asinine comments,” ‘good’ cop Tubolski wryly states. While many sections of the audience tittered frequently throughout NNT’s The Pillowman, The Tab cannot help but feel that Tubolski’s warning comes too little too late.

Telling the story of…well, that is just the question. There is a narrative in The Pillowman, but its checkpoints are toothpicks in the sand, brief allusions to progression consumed within the dunes of rambling dialogue.

Katurian Katurian (that there being a joke) is a children’s storywriter pulled in for questioning after several gruesome deaths apparently based on his work.

The premise is fascinating, the execution grueling. Over three hours of grueling.

The Pillowman is ostensibly a black comedy but settles on tonal cataclysm, its humour a series of anachronistic miss-hits reminiscent of a cancelled BBC sitcom.

It could have been very amusing with a little more care in its direction. The general sentiment seems to have been ‘be funny wherever you can’ rather than fitting the comedy – much of which is not remotely black and dips frequently into the inane instead – organically into the progression of each scene.

Far too often dialogue comes off as ad-libbed and poorly at that, long ambling bloated tangents forcing scenes to run for exhaustingly protracted periods of time.

The abject failings of the play are capitulated by two genuinely brilliant fairytale-esque sequences. Showcasing the best of its commendable cast – Sam Hayward makes for a charismatic lead – these scenes engagingly combine humour and drama through actively working to link them, rather than treating the two as disparate elements that collide randomly and often nonsensically.

The lighting and chiaroscuro aesthetic during these upsettingly brief scenes makes for engaging, unsettling and ultimately rewarding theatre, antithetical to the insipid naturalistic drabness of everything else.

It is overall a shame that The Pillowman fails to deliver despite a sturdy grounding of talented actors and intriguing proposition.

There will be enjoyment for some, severe backache for others.