CUPPERS: The Pillowman (Merton)

Fri 11th November 2011


Alex Fisher

at 13:31 on 13th Nov 2011



For me, the purpose of theatre is to entertain. This is obviously subject to opinion and innumerable plays have been written with some kind of agenda behind them whether political, satirical etc but I find the Pillowman somewhat unnerving. At the very heart of the piece is the tension between whether art imitates life or vice versa, but in this case it is taken to the extreme. The idea of children committing suicide or being viciously murdered is configured, at least in my mind, as one of the greatest social taboos and I fail to see why such abhorrent acts should be the subject of the stage.

However, if we remove this contentious point, we are left with some rather innovative direction and acceptable acting. The stage was split into three and acted almost as the past, present and future, ensuring that the audience had to stay focused in order to follow the narrative. The three performers (Sarah Jones, Catherine Lusher and Julia Doyle) who acted out the analepses worked well together. One couldn’t help but feel there was something distinctly Berkovian about the way they presented the willow tree or the torturing of Michal and it was in these moments the play excelled.

Nick Lyons as Katurian was engaging, portraying broken man, rejected writer and angry prisoner. On the other hand, Annabel Fox who also played Katurian, was a little less convincing. Her final speech was broken in many places – whether it was nerves, speaking too quickly or lack of concentration, it lessened the impact of closure that the monologue was supposed to effect.

Our emotions were initially misdirected with the two police officers Ariel (Francis Blagburn) and Tupolski (Stephen Hyde). We are led to believe that the duo are the villains manipulating the media capturing Katurian to satisfy their own sadistic pleasure, but the crux of the play enables this to be reversed – Ariel and Tupolski are actually the good guys dealing out just desserts. Although their performance was occasionally unconvincing they worked well as a pair and grew in confidence as the play developed.

Yet for all of the acting and direction, I left the theatre feeling repulsed, unsatisfied and angry. The fact that it was directed as a group pertains to the ‘Spirit of Cuppers’ but the subject matter negates this completely. It was a bold move by the Merton Cuppers group to stage this play and whilst it was a memorable performance, it is not necessarily for the right reasons.



Rebecca Thomas; 13th Nov 2011; 15:13:58

I didn't see the Merton production of The Pillowman, but personally I feel the play is one of the best so far of the 21st Century. Surely theatre is supposed to push limits in a way no other medium can? Bravo to Merton for their bold choice of play.

Hugh Jeffery; 13th Nov 2011; 16:18:17

I didn't see it either but The Pillowman is a great play! If you left the theatre feeling completely different to when you arrived 30 minutes previously then that's surely a sign of successful drama? Also what's your opinion on Richard III then? Is that a bad piece of drama because it involves child-murder too?

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