“Rivetting 2017 Season Opener engages with dark stories!”
Reviewer: Christian W. Huber
Performance: 7 March 2017
The revisiting of Martin Mcdonough’s The Pillowman succeeds in rattling many a spirit in the ‘grand dame’ – yet modernized, state of the art – Victoria Theatre. Performing to an almost filled 614 seater theatre, this hauntingly dark piece known for its macabre, grimmer-than-Grimm material is sure to make one laugh and unsettle the bejesus out of viewers, while also celebrating the power of writers, not only as storytellers, but as artists who encourage us to think.
This 2005 Laurence Olivier Award winner for Best New Play tells the tale of a writer in a totalitarian state interrogated by two detectives, who claim that his unpublished fairytales featuring children who meet violent ends are being used as a model for a serial killer.
The strong four-male cast piece deliver the goods – along with an ensemble of three (that reenact the gruesome tales) – of this funny, terribly dark and disturbing piece, which remains Martin Mcdonough’s most recognizable work worldwide.
Raising compelling questions about art, power, family, religion and the relationships between the four main characters, the viewer gets swept up with questions about the responsibility of the writer to society and himself, and the dangerous power of literature to one’s imagination. This timeless and utterly contemporary piece explains why writers are feared, as it reminds us that with the lack of freedom of speech, freedom of thought is unattainable.
Director Tracie Pang – along with her creative team – has created a theatrical cause célèbre. It is palatable for most, but with deadly razor blades underneath.
Two bravura performances deserve mention.
Daniel Jenkins as the writer Katurian is thoroughly convincing and engaging. His presence and journey onstage from the beginning through to the denouement 2 ¾ hours later is nothing but a tour de force.
A close second – one that this reviewer yearned to see more of – is the performance of Andy Tear playing Katurian’s brother, Michal. Playing the role of a mentally-challenged person with such playful innocence, Tear does not play to stereotype. His scene with Jenkins is poignant, funny, and completely devastating.
The performances of the detectives who interrogate / torture Katurian are commendable. Adrian Pang, ever reliable (and ever “Adrian Pang”) as Tupolski hams it up at times, but provides good nuance from time to time, which makes for good comic relief – though slowed the momentum – during the tensest of moments. Shane Marjuki’s Ariel is a slow burn to appreciate. His tough and goofball heavy of the first half is unlikeable, but his character softens during the second half.
Pangdemonium’s forte has been reviving millennial works that have seen success from the stages of the West. It would be – for this reviewer – good to see how their next offering comes from a local millennial writer, stepping out with the rest of them.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
THE PILLOWMAN by Pangdemoium
12 February – 12 March 2017
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Christian is a C42 Boiler Room 2016 playwright, and enjoys being an audience member to different mediums of the arts. He finds arts invigorating to the soul, and truly believes that the vibrant arts scene has come a long way from its humble beginnings.