Theatre review: The Pillowman at The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
Martin McDonagh’s Olivier Award winning play makes large intellectual gestures, but simultaneously doesn’t appear to take itself too seriously.
It constantly undermines and disestablishes its political intent, with complex tonal shifts and ambiguities. It dares you to engage with its ideas, whilst defiantly mocking you for doing so. But don’t be fooled; it takes itself very seriously indeed, and this is a welcome opportunity to see the play in its first Irish production by Decadent Theatre Company.
What begins as a Pinteresque comedy of menace, two toughs in a room violently interrogating a writer with possible political undertones, repositions itself as a phantasmagoria of creativity. The play involves “realistic” scenes with the writer, his intellectually disabled brother and the two interrogators in a prison cell. These scenes are interspersed with dramatised excerpts from his short stories, all blackly comic and gruesome. Director Andrew Flynn chooses to play these for a chirpy theatricality rather than Gothic menace. A good call that enhances the ambivalence of the text and pumps up the entertainment value.
Gary Lydon is superb, building from a tough-guy start, and working the difficult ambiguities of the script to find its buried emotional core. David McSavage, a super comedian making his theatre debut, starts well with a strong ruthless presence and excellent comic timing. But his performance is one note and doesn’t develop. Peter Campion as the writer has perfect leading man DNA and Michael Ford-FitzGerald plays the damaged brother utterly persuasively.
A fine production of a great script: Martin McDonagh’s capricious intelligence is a pleasure to engage with.