Review – The Pillowman at Oxford Playhouse

Write whatever you want.

Stuff it full of the most horrific violence, blood and brutality. Show human nature at its worst and then tell those who try to censor you to go fuck themselves. En masse. In a big censorious Mary fucking Whitehouse orgy.

Give us a choice: while this brutality and death is happening in the helpless confines a totalitarian state police cell make the dialogue as funny as possible. Dare us to laugh; dare us not to.

Establish a character with learning difficulties. Make us sympathise. Reveal that this character is a child murderer. Make us hate.

Convince us that violence in someone’s writing says nothing about the writer’s own life or upbringing. (Except, for Katurian, it kind of does.)

Convince us that violence in media does not encourage people to go out and re-enact gruesome murders. (Except, for Michal, it kind of does.)

Lie to us. Pretend. If the play asks us to question how Katurian’s life seeps into his writing, then let’s ask how McDonagh’s does. Or let’s not.

Write about a writer.

Allow Katurian’s stories to survive him. Dripfeed moments of compassion from the characters.

Above everything: always, always question the storyteller. Always consider the possibility that nothing you are being told is true.

Tell us we have ten seconds, then shoot us in the head three seconds too early.


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