The Southampton Theatre group pulled out all the stops with an excellent production of Martin McDonagh’s ‘The Pillowman’. Winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2004, directors Rob McGough and Sam Gray certainly had a challenge ahead of them to do justice to this play.
Do justice to this play, however, is exactly what they did do. From direction, to production, ‘The Pillowman’ was spectacular. First credit must go to the outstanding portrayal of Katurian by Richard Copperwaite. On stage for almost the entire show, his flawless delivery of lines was something to be admired. Copperwaite, however, was supported excellently by an incredible cast who must all be praised for their individual performances. The commitment of this cast to rehearsals shone through on their cue bites, use of pauses and delivery. Compliments should also go to the actors for their expressions, movements and understanding of their character even when they were not speaking. Irene Babille’s portrayal of the usually male Tupolski was especially interesting due to her femininity and her different reactions to the events on stage shown through expression and movement. Perfectly in role at all times along with her fast paced delivery of her lines allowed a great character to be built up. Effective in support was ‘bad cop’, Ariel (Sam Beath). He commanded the stage with authority and the relationship Katurian and Ariel had throughout the play was created primarily through his reactions and intimacy with him. Furthermore, the stunning portrayal of Katurian’s brother, Michal, by Alexis Forss should not go unmentioned. Not only did he immediately bring humour into the production, but depth and realism too. The relationship between Michal and his brother was both amusing and moving to watch. The poignant scene between the brothers where Katurian kills Michal to save him from further pain was both distressing and emotional;. Katurian’s tears demonstrated the audience’s own feelings towards such a loveable character. Credit should also be given to the disturbing nature of the brothers’ parents (Mark Hill and Poppy Roworth) and the comical supporting acts from Chris Harper as the Blind Man and Michaela Bennison as the Little Girl.
The production was done tastefully with a minimalist set and low lighting. This emphasised the darkness of the play and the hopelessness of the brothers’ fate. The space around the set was used by the directors to move the actors around and keep the play exciting which could otherwise be a problem as the script gives little in the way of instruction on movement. The darkness also represented the totalitarian world the play was based in. It seemed clear from the start that neither brother would make it out alive. Stage manager, Katie Allen, certainly understood the play well and created a set fitting for the performance.
Strobes and sound were used effectively to support some of Katurian’s more gruesome stories and credit to the stage crew for these additions. The costumes were spot on reflecting the wearer’s status. Moreover, the make up for Katurians cuts and gun shot wound were convincing. The haunting final scene in which Katurian rises from the dead to tell his last story was an appropriate start to the Halloween festivities!