Find out what is being said about this revival of Martin McDonagh’s play starring Lily Allen with our review round up….

(c)Johan Persson

The Upcoming: *** “McDonagh’s oeuvre always makes for a stimulating and provocative theatrical experience and this is no exception. Dunster’s incarnation will surely stay in the minds of those who see it, especially those new to the play, however there is the sense we have witnessed a slightly muted version of what could have been.”

The Guardian: ** “Anna Fleischle’s gloomily atmospheric set unleashes the gothic psychodrama of fairytales: children lost in forests, psychotic parents whose savagery might be a metaphor for state brutality, too, and a gallery of deaf, mute and blind characters as heavy-handed reminders that McDonagh is working from a Brothers Grimm tradition.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “With his superb comic timing and puffed-up fake rectitude Pemberton (from Inside Number 9) is the high point of Matthew Dunster’s atmospheric production, set by Anna Fleischle in dingy interrogation rooms that occasionally pull back to reveal the fantasy landscapes of Katurian’s nightmare narratives, enacted as dumb shows.”

Evening Standard: **** “McDonagh’s play remains brightly hilarious even at its darkest moments.”

The Stage: *** “Starry cast delivers gallows laughs in Martin McDonagh’s violent, grotesque fairytale drama about the power of stories.”

The Independent: **** “The atmosphere is Kafkaesque and the stories like the Brothers Grimm on the heavy sesh. Lily Allen is frustratingly flat throughout, writes Jessie Thompson, but this extraordinary and troubling play from Martin McDonagh is a modern classic in waiting”

London **** “Sharply funny, gasp-inducing and richly thought-provoking, this is a bold, uncompromising drama that startlingly interrogates its own artistic medium. You’ll start to wonder if you can believe anyone or anything (appropriately enough in our “fake news” era), even the certainties of an old trusted form like “once upon a time.””

Jonathan Baz Reviews: **** “Technically, the production’s staging is breathtaking. Allen is responsible for delivering a raft of mind-boggling monologues, proving magnificent in the role. Equally Pemberton, and Kaye in particular, are compelling policemen. Anna Fleischle’s designs hitched to Neil Austin’s lighting work and Dick Straker’s videos ingeniously blur our perceptions, contributing to the evening’s sense of profound disquiet and even moments of awkward humour.”

Lost in Theatreland: *** “Although Allen performs with confidence and clear dialect, the sense of emotion is not convincing enough to allow for any emotional connection. Pemberton brings humour to the play with great timing and Tupolski’s telling of a story which he wrote that he feels is better than any of Katurian’s is engaging, displaying his acting ability well. Paul Kaye playing Ariel has the best arc and evokes an interesting feeling of sudden sympathy for someone that appears so sadistic, with a keen use of torture methods to get the answers he needs.”

iNews: *** “Allen imbues Katurian with a gaunt and nervous energy but doesn’t manage to give the character quite enough heft to sustain us through the many lengthy renditions of her oeuvre. Pemberton does fine work in moving Tupolski from affable to explosive in under a second and Tennyson is exquisite as a faux-naif innocent with a heart of darkness.”

Theatre “Matthew Dunster’s production of The Pillowman, is a masterpiece of dark comedy.  It may not always be an easy watch but it serves up a delicious take on what it means to be a writer, and to believe in your own abilities above all else.”

London Unattached: “The Pillowman is a provocative play which is disturbing and absurdist, part Kafka, part Orwell, and will have you thinking about the political and psychological meaning long after the curtain call. Perhaps, as Kathurian tells her interrogator, ‘it is supposed to be a puzzle without a solution’.”

Broadway World: **** “As with McDonagh’s previous work including Hangmen and The Cripple of Inishmaan, the pace is relentless throughout, the cast bouncing McDonagh’s intricate dialogue off each other effortlessly. The complexity of the play could result in disaster, but Dunster’s impeccable directing means the audience can’t help but remain gripped throughout.”

All That Dazzles: ***** “The incredible writing and immaculate direction of The Pillowman are matched by some stunning production elements. Factor in a truly wonderful cast, led by a sensational performance from Lily Allen in a turn I wouldn’t be surprised to see her get award nominations for, this truly is a show like no other.”

Culture Whisper: *** “It’s an eerie but cautious version of the play, with the horror dialled up thanks to vivid stage designs by Anna Fleischle (another Hangmen alumni). While the play’s wicked humour seems muted here, at least in comparison to a previous production this writer enjoyed, it’s perhaps more palatable by 2023 standards.”

The Pillowman will run at the Duke of York’s Theatre  until the 2nd September.


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