Home > Uncategorized > The Pillowman Play – Horror & Redemption through Storytelling with Deft Shadow Puppetry

The Pillowman Play – Horror & Redemption through Storytelling with Deft Shadow Puppetry

blog the pillowman 1

You are in an increasingly claustrophobic jailhouse interrogation room as two detectives (the classic Good Cop & Bad Cop) harshly question a puzzled writer Katurian about the recent deaths of three children as Austin’s 7 Towers Theatre Company begins it production of Martin McDonagh’s horrific yet ultimately uplifting play – The Pillowman.

Bob Kinney Words

Photos courtesy of 7 Towers Theatre

Seems like the gruesome killing of each toddler mirrors a fairy tale story the writer Katurian has created. A little boy, for example, dies when the killer chops off his toes. Katurian is proud of the 400 stories he has wrote – all now compiled by police in a storage box next to him in the torture room. He wrote the stories – a mix of the Grimm Brothers and Edward Gorey – but continues to insist that he did not commit any crime.

Angry at the writer’s denials, the detectives increasingly beat Katurian – both psychologically and physically. The writer then hears the screams of his older retarded brother Michael in an adjacent room. Michael soon joins his brother as the detectives leave the room.

The brothers then unfold the play’s storyline and how Michael – who was born without defect – came to be retarded. The first act concludes with an even more brutal horror that somehow ends up being an act of caring.

The Katurian Brothers Hug in Jail - Michael, right

The Katurian Brothers Hug in Jail – Michael, right


Bob Kinney Words

Photos courtesy of 7 Towers Theatre

The emotions I felt during the play’s intermission included revulsion at the brutal horrors I had experienced and heart-felt compassion for my fellow writer Katurian who loved what he wrote, as well as the fear at what would unfold in the second act. I simply could not connect this with any other play or film I have seen … and still can’t.

Everything I experienced in the first act got turned upside down in the second act. It was revelatory, uplifting and affirmed the importance of a storyteller telling a story.

In her program notes, director Christina Gutierrez writes – “Set in an unidentified totalitarian police state, the play asks difficult questions about freedom of speech and expression, and about the use of torture and force in police interrogations.”

This play is urgently timely given what our country is recently suffering – the revelation of our government’s secret acquisition of journalist’s phone call records – the ever-growing National Security Agency insidious snooping all due to the almost twelve-year-old Patriot Act occupation of the US – the government’s cruel jailing and prosecution of Bradley Manning and … now … its international bullying of sovereign countries as our “leaders” attempt to capture Edward Snowden. To me – Manning and Snowden are national heroes.

While The Pillowman has been performed several times since the Irishman McDonagh premiered it in 2003, the 7 Towers Austin production marks the first time the wonder of Shadow Puppet Theatre is deftly woven into the play.

“7 Towers is thrilled to partner with Austin-based Katie Rose Pipkin to bring the writer’s stories to life on stage,” Gutierrez writes. “Katie Rose has created stunning (shadow puppet) characters and landscapes which transform the interrogation room in which the play takes place into a canvas for the writer’s imagination.”

The Pillowman is being performed Friday through Sunday 8pm through July at the Austin Dougherty Arts Center.

The Wonder of Shadow Puppetry

The Wonder of Shadow Puppetry

See a brief video about the play

Much Thanks to the wonderful cast – Travis Bedard (Katurian) – David J. Boss (good detective Tupolski) – Stephen Price (bad detective Ariel) – Aaron Black (Michael Katurian) – Katie Rose and the shadow puppeteers Lindsay McKenna (captain), Chelsea Bunn, Sara Cormier and Becky Musser.

I will experience The Pillowman again later in July. I am certain that although I know its story I will discover new things.

Bob Kinney Words

Photos courtesy of 7 Towers Theatre

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Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. July 7, 2016 at 11:03 am

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