DECADENT THEATRE Company’s acclaimed production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman returns to the Town Hall Theatre in a welcome revival that launches a second national tour for the play.
Winner of two Tony awards and Olivier Award, The Pillowman opens in a prison cell where a young writer, Katurian, is being interrogated about stories he has written; grim tales which seem to have inspired grisly child-murders in the streets outside. Mixing comedy and dread, his interrogators – detectives Tupolski and Ariel – tease out the resemblances between real and fictional worlds, while probing the personal responsibility of the writer and his brother. Throughout, the uneasy laughter provoked by McDonagh’s gift for comedy never overrides the emotions of fear and pity felt for Katurian’s plight.
Taking on the role of Tupolski is Peter Gowen, who previously appeared with Decadent in Stuart Carolan’s Defender of the Faith. Gowen is no stranger to McDonagh having featured in both the West End run of Cripple of Inishmaan and one of Druid’s tours of Beauty Queen of Leenane. As he prepares for his third meaty McDonagh role, he shared his thoughts on what it is like to appear in his plays.
“He requires huge discipline,” Gowen observes. “Martin’s writing is high quality there is a lyrical structure to it that you have to obey. In obeying that, you find a lot of the humour comes out in his rhythms. He is similar to Tom Murphy in that he is very specific in his use of punctuation and pauses. They both write the lines as they are meant to be heard, so part of the interpretation is just about observing what they are telling you.
"Also in Martin’s work ,when he gives a stage direction you really find that he is right about it whereas with a lot of writers you just ignore stage directions, and others, like Frank McGuinness, don’t even use them. It’s very rewarding acting in his plays, they’re funny and very dark and audiences love them.”
The Pillowman presents a markedly different world to the Connemara and Aran Island settings of those McDonagh plays for which audiences know him best. “The Pillowman might have been an attempt by him to get away from the west of Ireland milieu of the other plays,” Gowen muses. “It’s got to do with creativity and story. When you’re in it, it’s to do with the vulnerability people have in relation to story. Somehow people’s stories always emerge no matter what the circumstances are. That’s what I’m discovering in rehearsal; people project one thing then you find out all these other things about them. There are incredible stories within everyone.”
Tupolski is the ‘good cop’ of the two interrogators, or is he? “He’s the good cop who maybe turns out to be the bad cop and the bad cop, Ariel, may turn out to be the good cop,” Gowen notes. “McDonagh sets things up then dismantles them and that’s part of the fun for the audience, the plays are full of surprises.”
The Pillowman features the wonderful dramatic talents of Diarmuid Noyes as Katurian, Owen Sharpe as Michal (Katurian’s brother ), and Gary Lydon who will reprise his critically acclaimed role as Ariel, under the direction of Andrew Flynn.
“I enjoy working with Andrew and Decadent, I love their setup,” Gowen concludes. “Andrew is phenomenal in terms of his output and he’s very loyal to the people he works with. He’s also great at giving a platform to younger actors, he’s a conduit for a lot of talent coming out of Galway. He eats, sleeps, and drinks theatre and it’s great to work with somebody like that. He’s unpretentious yet very sharp. It’s a testament to his credentials that writers like Martin and Stuart Carolan allow him to do their plays. Great writers trust him.”
The Pillowman runs at the Town Hall from Monday October 10 to Saturday 15 at 8pm nightly. Tickets are available from 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie