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The Pillowman

Presented by Auckland Theatre Company
Auckland, New Zealand, 23 August-15 September 2007
written by Martin McDonagh; directed by Simon Prast


  Craig Parker  
  Simon Prast
  Jonathan Hardy  
Set Design
  John Verryt
  Michael Hurst  
Lighting Design
  Bryan Caldwell
  Gareth Reeves  
Costume Design
  Elizabeth Whiting
  Oliver Driver  
Sound Design
  Eden Mulholland
  Bonnie Soper  
  Brooke Williams  

(r to l) Michael with his father Brian and brothers Mark and Stuart at closing night of The Pillowman.  See photos from the production below.

Director's Note

This is my third encounter with Martin McDonagh.  In 1999, I directed The Cripple of Inishmaan.  A year later, I produced The Beauty Queen of Leenane.  Both works, set on the ravaged west coast of Ireland, appalled and appealed in equal measure.  His characters, so richly drawn, were mad or murderous or both.  Most importantly, they revelled in their predicament (perhaps a trait unique to the Irish).  Even as their hopes and dreams evaporated, they never lost gusto, well and truly putting the fun back into dysfunction.  The worse things got, the funnier they were to behold.  This inverse correlation is McDonagh's signature.  Anyone can do violence and invective.  To have an audience rolling in the aisles whilst viewing the same: now that's a world-class talent at work.  And that is Mr McDonagh, arguably the leading playwright of his generation.

His latest work is vivid, visceral and hilarious.  To a cast and creative team, all is provided: an ominous world, idiosyncratically inhabited, and disturbingly littered with unspeakable implements of death and destruction.  As with Pinter or Stoppard or Albee, it is bravura writing.  Nothing on the page is accidental, incidental or without specific purpose.  Precision punctuation must be rigorously honoured for the script to make sense.  Such precision also releases the script's vast mine of comedy, allowing it to soar and identifying it as a modern classic.

Directing The Pillowman, I have adhered to McDonagh's 'road map' as closely as I could.  Blessed with a world-class cast, the most and best I could offer was constant reference back to the script.  It is all there on the page.  We learn scripts swiftly but not always accurately and can be masters of the paraphrase (when acting, I am the guiltiest).  The Pillowman is a complex and confronting tale that demands absolute accuracy in its delivery.  The cast never once cowered from the task at hand and rehearsals were a joyful workout of mind, body and soul.  A pure pleasure.

The story you are about to witness conjures highly demanding images which, if we have done our job right, will not leave you in a hurry.  It takes no prisoners.  The musicality and muscularity of its writing, its blasphemous wit, its integrity and intelligence take you seriously as human beings.  In dangerous times, the 'resensitisation' is the greatest gift theatre can give an audince.  On behalf of all The Pillowman cast and crew, we hope you enjoy the ride.

And be kind to your children!

-Simon Prast

Michael as Ariel; Craig Parker as Katurian

Michael as Ariel; Jonathan Hardy as Tupolski

Michael as Ariel

Michael as Ariel; Jonathan Hardy as Tupolski

Michael as Ariel; Craig Parker as Katurian;
Jonathan Hardy as Tupolski


Michael as Ariel; Craig Parker as Katurian

Michael as Ariel; Craig Parker as Katurian


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Reviews of The Pillowman

New Zealand Herald:  "Jonathan Hardy and Michael Hurst brilliantly carry off the grim humour of their good-cop-bad-cop routine while revealing surprising layers of complexity in their characters."

Listener "As . . . sinister sidekick Ariel, Michael Hurst is all glowering fury, champing at the bit to brandish the electrodes at Parker’s emotionally racked Katurian."

Sunday Star-Times:   "Hurst's Ariel is all fists and fury, with a morally-driven, white collar everyman beneath his angry fascist exterior".

gaynz.com:  ". . . Ariel, played by Michael Hurst with a savage malevolence, and Hardy's Tupolski play off one another like a world–weary Laurel and Hardy, the one fat and sardonic, the other lean and deceptively thick."