005 – The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh

The Pillowman

In Bruges is one of the best films of the last decade. And you can trust my opinion because I write movie reviews that upwards of ten people read. Okay, strike that. You can trust my opinion because it’s just a really good fucking movie. I don’t even want to tell you what it’s about, I just want you to watch it – if for some reason you haven’t seen it already (I will give you one warning: it is a little gory at times. But you really shouldn’t let that stop you). Why do I bring all of this up? The man who wrote and directed In Bruges, Martin McDonagh, is also an excellent playwright. And for today’s review I read one of his plays: The Pillowman.

The Pillowman is the story of a writer living in an unnamed dictatorship who is being interrogated for unknown reasons that are slowly revealed as the play progresses. There are four main characters: the writer, Katurian; his brother, Michal; and two detectives, Tupolski and Ariel. I won’t say too much more about the plot because it is really exciting to discover for yourself.

That is possibly what is so fascinating about McDonagh’s writing: how exciting it is. I’ve read a lot plays. I used to self-medicate – in a semi-legal fashion – in college and just spend an afternoon reading a play. It was a lot of fun, though perhaps not the most constructive use of my time. It was entertaining, but sometimes it felt a little forced. After all, plays are meant to be consumed from theater seats. The words are meant to be read out loud by actors, not in your own head. Despite all that, McDonagh manages to give you a good time regardless.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t want to see this play performed live. I would love it. Or to perform in it. Or anything. The same exciting feeling you get from watching a McDonagh film (even Seven Psychopaths, which is pretty flawed) is present here, and I’m sure with the right actors it is amazing. I honestly don’t understand why it didn’t win all of the Tony’s. Even the musical ones.

This is a pretty bad review because all I can think of are positives. And I don’t exactly have a critical spin on this one, either. Sure I could craft some bullcrap about the power of narrative, both within the play and without it. How the characters in the story are affected by Katurian’s stories in a way that is mirrored by how we are affected by the story McDonagh writes. And then I could delve into how the play is a metaphor for responsibility and ownership. But I’m not going to do that, because it would be mostly bullshit (mostly), meant to pad out a word count that no one really cares about. And it would be disrespectful to write something like that after reading truly great writing.

Perhaps play reviews will become a regular fixture of the blog as well. I would like to see a couple plays performed, too. That would be cool. Good luck finding one though, am I right? Talk about a dead art form. Yuck.

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