REVIEW: Pillowman at Hills Road Sixth Form College - a masterclass of horror and humour

PUBLISHED: 09:34 03 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:34 03 May 2019

Matt Wilkinson as the interrogator Tupolski

Matt Wilkinson as the interrogator Tupolski


Martin McDonagh’s play The Pillowman is macabre. Yet this chilling production not only had the audience on the edge of their seats, they were laughing throughout.

Martin McDonagh's play The Pillowman is macabre. Yet this chilling production not only had the audience on the edge of their seats, they were laughing throughout.

The Corkscrew Theatre Company, directed by Lesley Ford, offers a master class of horror and humour.

The play, set in an unnamed totalitarian state, opens with a young writer, Katurian, sitting on a chair blindfolded.

Enter a pair of police interrogators. Tupolski, the apparently reasonable one, played with panache and immaculate comic timing by Matt Wilkinson, is cold and matter of fact.

Ariel, the thug, played with real menace by Steve Nicholson, is always about to boil over with rage.

Intimidating Tupolski repeats slowly and meaningfully whatever the meek and conciliatory prisoner Katurian says, giving the words a different and sinister tone: “We can draw our own conclusions... we can DRAW our own conclusions - that is sort of our job.”

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Katurian is under interrogation because his short stories, mostly involving children and torture, have been echoed in a series of child murders.

It shouldn't have been possible to make this material funny. But McDonagh, who wrote In Bruge, the grim drama The Beauty Queen of Leenane and the screenplay for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, sees the ironies of human nature. The writing is fine and the performances are flawless.

Will Males as Katurian tells us his tales, grimmer than the Brothers Grimm ever dared to go, and, despite the gore, is an engaging and charming storyteller.

Will Norland plays his learning disabled brother Michal with well observed characterisation, giving us a man who is still a child, sometimes insightful, sometimes happy with very simple things.

One is left puzzling at the paradox. Without evil, there would be no stories, no theatre. None of Shakespeare's tragedies could have been written. We'd have been barely left with A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the oeuvre of Alan Ayckbourn.

Perhaps it doesn't matter. This is a perfect piece of drama and a must-see.

The Pillowman is at Robinson Theatre at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge until Saturday, May 4.

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