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January 2005
The Pillowman @ The Playhouse
Edwrad Hogg as Michal. Photo Neil Libbert
Edwrad Hogg as Michal. Photo Neil Libbert


The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh's

The Oxford Playhouse

Performances are from January 27 - February 5.

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By Harriet Mancey-Barratt

First of all, let me say: if you miss this play you should never forgive yourself. It’s won the Olivier award for Best New Play, and I can say with all honesty that there can have been no competition. Gruesome, disturbing, hilarious and very, very clever, ‘The Pillowman’ is a production of the highest calibre on all counts.

The plot was cunningly wrought, combining horror with comedy again and again until the emotionally weary but entirely captivated audience could no longer distinguish between the two.

A short story writer, obsessed by tales of unjust killings and child torture, is taken in by the police for ‘questioning’. We learn that he is an orphan who cares for his brain-damaged brother; we suspect him to be a funny, caring and good man. Working as the plot did on the concepts of shock and twist, it would be unfair to disclose any details; suffice it to say that we are drawn further and further into a tale of torture, revenge and hideous comedy.

The play encourages the audience’s pre-conceptions of police brutality and unfair totalitarian role – of the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – only to turn back on itself. By the end of the play, your idea of characters as readable will be entirely challenged. It charmed and shocked, gently humoured and grotesquely mocked its audiences and its characters by turn.

It’s not for the faint-hearted; its horror comes simultaneously from a hideously powerful and overriding sense of dark tension manifesting itself in reality, and from cunning stagecraft, with a set which was strangely realistic despite its usually sparse nature. If you like clever, captivating and grossly amusing plays, then this production is a must. If you don’t, you should go anyway – you soon will.

Dates: January 27 - February 5
Performances: Eves at 7.30pm, Fri 8pm, Matinees Sat 29 Jan, Thu 3 & Sat 5 Feb at 2.30pm.
Box Office: 01865 305305
Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes.
Please note: Contains scenes and language that may offend. Not suitable for children.

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