Director’s Note: The Pillowman

Photo Credit: MLD Photography

“I’m not trying to tell you anything. It’s supposed to be just a puzzle without a solution.”

Humourous, horrifying, intriguing and mystifying – The Pillowman has been equally challenging and rewarding to direct. It has the potential to fill a huge theatre and accommodate ambitious staging and lighting design. At the same time, it’s an intensely private play – heartbreak and frustration mixed with McDonagh’s characteristic uncomfortable humour. Beneath the sensational murder-mystery plot, or the gruesome details of Katurian and Michal’s childhood, behind the fantastical tales and baffling endings – there is a man telling a story.

That is The Pillowman that we are bringing to you this weekend. It doesn’t seek to be a polished spectacle or shrewdly choreographed performance – we hope for it to be intimate, a bedtime story, a children’s school play, a lullaby of sorts. It has been an exciting time for us as first-time directors and we have been lucky to have been almost telepathic in our vision, whilst also having different opinions in a way which has allowed us to grow so much in this process. We decided to avoid watching previous productions and to work with the actors to portray aspects of the characters that they felt were fitting, given the script at hand. We have worked to balance the dry and absurd humour of the play, with its innate horror and its obsession with bizarre fantasy. At times it has been personally challenging in terms of its content – this is a play that seems to make a statement, yet no one can be sure exactly what that statement is. Simultaneously though, we hope it gives you something to take away, as our favourite pieces of theatre often do, through laughter or distress we hope it leaves you thinking.

We have had the pleasure of working with a brilliant cast who have each made the characters their own. Our utmost thanks goes to the wonderful Katie and Baneet, our producers who, armed with UV paint and cardboard, have transformed the Union Debating Chamber into a stunning performance space. We can’t wait for everyone to see it.

The Pillowman is on at 7pm, 16th-18th November at The Durham Union Debating Chamber.

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