A writer of gruesome short stories is arrested and interrogated by two policemen in connection with a series of grizzly child murders that closely resemble the plots of his works.
Adapted from Martin McDonagh’s Laurence Olivier Award-winning play of the same name, The Pillowman is a Kafkaesque black comedy.
“There is a clear class division between the policemen and the prisoner in the interrogation room,” said Fan Tsung-chi (樊宗錡), the play’s director. “We aim to establish a terrifying tension that builds from their unequal power relationship.”
Living in a totalitarian state, detectives Tupolski (Chang Chia-chen, 張家禎) and Ariel (Huang Shih-hsun, 黃士勛) are free to use torture to get the “truth” out of Katurian (Wang Hong-yuan, 王宏元) and his mentally impaired brother Michal (Hsu Wei-ting, 徐維廷).
Beneath all the violence and depravity, the play poses a number of questions, including how much responsibility a writer has for his works, and on what basis trust is built.
“An intriguing thing about the play is how the division between good and evil, in mind as in deed, seems completely blurred,” Fan said.
In one of Katurian’s stories that is interwoven with the play’s storyline, a character named Pillowman travels back in time to urge children to kill themselves to avoid leading lives that are full of suffering. The job proves too painful for the man, who desperately seeks a way out.
The mission of Renshin Theater (仁信合作社劇團), established in 2007 by eight students who graduated from the fifth class of the Department of Drama and Theater at the National Taiwan University, is to “search for the reasons and answers to being a ‘human.’” Group members are mostly alumni and current students of the university and are dedicated to introducing works by contemporary playwrights to local audiences.
“We mainly choose foreign classics that have created a stir in the theatrical field,” said Liao Huei-li (廖慧麗), the group’s technical director and graphic designer. “Like The Pillowman, our first work The Goat: or, Who Is Sylvia? was first adapted and performed in Taiwan by us.”
“In July next year we will be running the Pulitzer Prize-winning play I Am My Own Wife,” Liao said.
— Derek Yiu Pui-yung