The Pillowman

Production: The Pillowman
Venue: Drama Barn
Rating: ****

With a title as deceptively soft as the fictitious character which it describes, the audience might have been forgiven for expecting a whimsical, cheerful sort of performance from the cast of ‘The Pillowman’. But as the posters plastered over the Barn doors pointed out, “there are no happy endings in real life” – and this sentiment defined this haunting performance, which stayed with me for far longer than after I left the interrogation room which the Barn had been transformed into.

The story of a man accused of a crime he did not commit, and his struggles to save himself in the topsy-turvy world of a totalitarian police state, may seem somewhat of a Catch-22 cliché at first glance – but Tom Powis’s skilful handling of this play lent it a truly chilling air. The sparse set and clever dim lighting helped to set the melancholy tone, and his direction was characterised by the build-up of climaxes between pairs of characters.

This intelligent direction, however, would not have been possible without the stellar performances of his distinguished cast. Jamie Wilkes shone as the tortured protagonist, Katurian, wrongly accused of committing a series of child murders, and his performance was offset by Jonathan Kerridge-Philips’ both comical and sadistic performance as the detective investigating the case. Sam Hinton as Katurian’s brother, Mikhail, and Joe Hufton as the aggressive policeman Ariel, both delivered fantastic and complex performances as characters which could all too easily have become hackneyed.

This production was at once deadly serious and comical, frightening and funny, macabre and strangely light-hearted. Whilst the script may have been slightly too long, the energy and simple talent of the cast and production team left the audience breathless with that quiet sort of terror one can only associate with a nightmare – the feeling one expects that Tom Powis wished to instil in the audience, as well as displaying with his actors.

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