Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Theatre: The Pillowman

by Martin McDonagh
Endless Theatre Company
Directed by Rebecca Virginia Williams
Performed by Jordan Gallagher, Kiefer Moriarty-Short, Bryn Coldrick and Garreth Bradshaw
State Theatre Centre Rehearsal Room until Feb 22

The Pillowman, tweaked slightly, could pop up as a telemovie on the ABC or Showtime.
It’s got obsessed detectives, a perhaps-not-so-innocent suspect with freak-out brother, bad behaviour in the interview room, that sort of thing. Think those grey-and-white Scandinavian crime stories; think The Fall or Top of the Lake.
But that’s not what makes the play, which cut a swathe trough the London and New York theatre awards a decade go, sing. Its writer, Martin McDonagh, has a trick or two up his sleeve, and the result, while enjoyably unpleasant, is more Grimm than merely grim.

An all-but-unpublished writer Katurian (Jordan Gallagher) is hauled into the back room of a police station, in an unspecified police state, by good cop Tupolski (Garreth Bradshaw) and bad cop Ariel (Bryn Coldrick). It seems that the short stories Katurian writes have inspired a grisly series of child murders.
That’s only the start of the bad news. His badly damaged brother Michal (Kiefer Moriarty-Short) is being held in another room, and is confessing to the crimes, and fingering Katurian as the source of his inspiration for them. There’s also the little problem for the brothers of the local justice system, which, we learn, favours quick out-of-court verdicts followed by summary executions.
To be honest, the play’s crime procedural narrative sits uncomfortably, and somewhat lazily, between gritty realism and Orwellian dystopian fantasy. Its real quality is Katurian’s macabre little stories, which we hear in full or part throughout. Some, in particular The Three Gibbet Crossroads and The Tale of the Town on the River (a spectacular twist on The Pied Piper), would do Edgar Allen Poe proud.
The production is directed by Rebecca Virginia Williams, with a cast combining the young Irish actors Gallagher and Moriarty-Short (I suspect their Endless Theatre Company could also be called 457 Productions) and the seasoned local actors Bradshaw and Coldrick.
Williams sets them to work at breakneck speed and intensity, and there’s more than a little talent and a great deal of conviction in the performances, though things flag considerably before the end (the play runs around 135 minutes; there is an interval) as the script – and the actors – run out of puff.

This review appeared in The West Australian 17.4.14         

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