POST: 'The Pillowman' - The Writer and The Writer's Brother


What's it about?

A small time writer is brought down to a police station after 3 small children are murdered. Every death is executed exactly as his gruesome tales go making him the prime suspect. The killer is closer than you think.

What'd I experience?

Waiting for the show to start itself was longer that I would have intended. The main character, Katurian Katurian Katurian ( his parents have a sense of humor) is thrown into an interrogation room - blind folded. Not aware at all of why he was taken down to the police station, he sits anxiously for 10 minutes in silence. Those ten minutes seem ridiculously unnecessary, but they actually built up the tension and mystery to how this seemingly harmless man has ended up in a police interrogation room. Soon, two detectives join Katurian and begin questioning if he is aware of three murders. He clearly is as it's been the only news in the small town. The entire interaction he has with the detectives honestly made me feel like I was in some Animal Farm (George Orwell) meets 1984 (George Orwell) dystopia. Although they had somewhat of a good cop, bad cop situation, both were flagrantly disrespectful. The worst comments were the ones made about Katurian's "slow to get things" brother , Micheal. The word retarded was thrown around more than I could care for, but it actually added to the twisted vibe this play had. It honestly felt like I was in one of those one-way mirror rooms looking into some f*cked up version of the world I live in, even more disturbing I started noticing similarities. 

Everything about this show was perversely entertaining. Especially the tales. As the case of the murder children unfold, their respective tales are revealed as well.  Each child is killed in a specific manner with it's own little twist.

The Little Apple Men: A young girl gifts her abusive father three little men carved out of apple. She tells him to save them instead of eating them, but he quickly ignores her request and eats them anyway. As they go down his throat his insides begin to rip as the razor blades inside of the apple men make their way down. The same night of his death, the remaining apple men jump down the girls throat for having killed their brothers. Everyone dies. (Child #1) 

The Tale of the Town on the River: A boy - once again mistreated by his parent - offers a strange man a bit of his meal. The man repays the child by chopping off his toes. The reason it's a 'gift' is, because the man is revealed to be Pied Piper (German folktale - basically child kidnapper). The now crippled child will not be able to walk- thus unable to be lured away by Pied Piper. No one gets kidnapped. (Child #2) 

The Little Jesus: This one is really screwed up. A little girl thinks she is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Unlike the other children she is loved dearly by her parents. In her attempt to be carry out her Jesus duties she gets lost one night, during which  her parents are decapitated by an oncoming train and die. She is given to a pair of incredibly evil foster parents. They hate religion and children, so it's hell for the kid (pun intended). Annoyed with her holy duties they complete her Jesus experience buy torturing her the same exact way he was. She is crucified and buried alive, "if your are really Jesus you'll rise after three days". A blind man walks by her grave on day three, but fails to hear the nails scratching against the wooden coffin. This is the same man who the little girl tried to "cure", but instead he called the police on the child. Would Jesus have survived more than three days? (Child#3)

And I thought Little Red Riding Hood was creepy. 

Once Katurian is reunited with Micheal they share a big hug, Micheal completely oblivious to the torture Katurian has endured in the room next door.  Micheal asks his brother to tell him a story - to distract him from his 'itchy butt' (not the threats of execution). The tale of The Pillow-man is told. Probably the folktale I'll tell my future kid when they decide to be little sh*ts. 

The Pillowman: A 9 ft creature made out of pillows has the worst job in the world. He has to visit people on the verge of suicide, then responsible for traveling back in time to that persons childhood and convince their younger selves to commit suicide, thus avoiding a lifetime of misery. This job has worn down the Pillow-man so much that he decides to visit his younger self in an attempt to convince his child self to commit suicide as he no longer wants to lead this horrible life. Even more unfortunate is that the Pillow-man's death, causes all the children he helped to return from the dead and live out their miserable lives. Eventually leading to die alone.

After Micheal's itch has subsided, he confesses to Katurian to having been the responsible for the death of the three children. The entire reasoning behind it is probably something that most people would view as bullshit (or hopefully not). Now, in the play pretty much all the characters talks about how 'delayed' and 'dumb' Micheal is, but I honestly thought his justification sadly makes perfect sense. An important factor for my reasoning is based on one of Kanturian's tales, The Writer and the Writer's Brother. This is the only partially autobiographical story that Katurian had written as it was hard for him to recount his torturous past. 

A young boy, raised by loving parents, is encouraged to write. Writing an endless amount of happy stories, it all changes after he starts hearing strange sounds, resembling to a child yelling in pain, in a room next door. When he asks his Mum what the sounds are she quickly blames it on the child's "genius imagination", and recommends he writes it down. As a result he begins writing more disturbing stories. One night, as he waits to hear back from a writing competition he had entered, a note slips from under the locked door. The note appears to be written in blood and claims to be the boy's brother. It states having been tortured nightly for seven years as part of an artistic experiment to get the boy to become a great writer. He breaks into the room, only to find his parents, who have staged the entire thing, simply pretending to be torturing a child. After years pass and the boy becomes a famous writer he visits his old home. When he discovers his brother's dead body hidden under the mattress, clutching the manuscript of a beautiful story, better than any of his, he decided to burn it out of jealousy. The title isn't meant to imply that Katurian is the writer, but actually the complete opposite as the same tale is that of the true writer, Michael. 

Having led such a cruel life filled with malignant parents, Micheal believes that this is the norm for children. This reasoning is important, because that means that Micheal didn't kill these children out of some perverted pleasure, but because in some sad sense it was his way of paying homage to The Pillow-man. He was simply trying to end the lives of children he believed would leave the same life he did. This is were this show was hard to be figuratively angry at. I know I should, because at the end of the day children died, but I can't erase Micheal's innocent expression when Katurian that not all kids have f*cked up lives like him.  

At the very end there is a moment that Katurian and Micheal share that nearly made me tear up, because I saw a reflection of the relationship I have with my brother, Steven. There was this sense of losing your other half, whenever they were apart. Even weirder the fact that Katurian and Micheal had been apart for 7 years, which is exactly the same time I took to come after my brother. They were blindly protective of one another and unconditional with their love and admiration for each other. I can't agree more with Micheal when he told Katurian that he would accept his death as long as it happened with his brother by his side. 


Want to see it?

The Pillowman
Seeing Place Theater
@ Clarion Theater
thru Dec. 20

Christine Gordon1 Comment