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The Pillowman

10 June 2023 to 2 September 2023 Duke of York Theatre

‘The first duty of a storyteller is to tell a story’. Or was it ‘The only duty of a storyteller is to tell a story.’

A harsh tale of artistry, censorship, and trauma, Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman once again graces the West End. 

McDonagh, now popularly known for his films In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, and most recently The Banshees of Inisheerin, began as a playwright at 26, producing a string of brilliant, award-nominated plays. The Pillowman, his first non-Irish play, has had numerous productions around the world, and is now coming back to London for the first time in exactly 20 years.

Lily Allen stars as Karturian, a writer who comes under fire from a fictional totalitarian state for writing gruesome tales of child violence that resemble real life murders. When Karturian’s brother is tortured into giving a false confession, the disgraced writer endeavours to save his life’s work from destruction.

Karturian’s tales are especially gruesome; children killing their fathers with razorblades in apples, young girls being crucified, and basements with cut out faces. These are tales that would face censorship in a modern democracy, let alone a totalitarian state.

An especially apt play to face a revival in times of increased artistic censorship and moral panic around children, the play also unpacks themes of intergenerational trauma and artistry. It is a writer’s duty to represent the ugliness and horror of daily life, but is there a limit? Is it ever the states’ role to intervene when art may overstep moral boundaries?

Come experience The Pillowman this summer, a rare chance to see one of Oscar-nominated McDonagh’s most acclaimed plays, especially if you were a fan of last years The Banshees of Inisheerin and British comedy cult classic In Bruges