The Pillowman is a dark comedic play written by Martin McDonagh, a British-Irish writer-director who also wrote and directed the films Six Shooter, In Bruges, and Seven Psychopaths. Taking place in a fictional totalitarian police state, The Pillowman, is an imaginative and original masterstroke which allows us readers and those lucky audiences to delve into the darkest alleys of the human psyche. It is a brilliant work; but brilliant with a sort of cutting edge to it. It looks at the very definition of art and its place in society; as well as the distinction between artwork and reality. Which one is manufactured and which one is natural?
The plot may seem to fit more in the dark thriller or suspense genre, however it is very much a black comedy in the way the dialogue is written and performed. The scenario is not by any means humorous; instead the repetitive back-and-forth between the characters along with a great amount of shtick create a jarringly dark comedic tone, particularly the torture scene. The style of questioning by the two police detectives, Ariel and Tupolski, bears resemblance to the scene from Goodfellas where Joe Pesci’s character goes on a jokingly angry rant asking Ray Liotta’s character: “Funny how? I’m funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you?” The police duo lazily fill their played-out roles of good cop-bad cop. However, Ariel’s aggressive and defiant nature leads him to become emotionally involved in the case, whereas Tupolski’s complete emotional detachment from his work allows him to grow only more ruthless during the interrogation scenes.
The Pillowman opens up a discussion about the value of art in society, the type of art society will accept, and the way artists view their own work and its worth. There are layers within layers, stories within stories, and lies within lies. There are so many unpredictable twists and revelations, you cannot look away from the horrendous wreck twisting before our very eyes. The play is so dynamic and thrilling with utterly despicable characters that once the performance is done you will run to the library to reread it again and again. The Pillowman is the Dr. Hyde/Mr. Jekyll of our age, so dark, so enchanting, so addictive, and so chilling.