Tales that strike a nerve

Tales that strike a nerve

Incredible act

The Pillowman’ isn’t for the faint-hearted. The narrative of this play — which remains obstinately suspense-filled and doesn’t shy away from a generous dose of gore — is hard to stomach and at the same time, extraordinarily absorbing.

Catchy : A scene from the play.

Staged recently at the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore by the ‘Renegade Arts & Theatre Society’, the drama pitched the audience into a tumultuous world of claustrophobia, madness and seemingly automatic murder.

The plot of the play revolves around a writer — rather strangely named Katurian K Katurian — who has been hauled in for police questioning in a state which quite obviously has dictatorial leanings.

Although Katurian is unsure as to why he has been summoned initially, it soon becomes clear that there have been a number of child murders in the vicinity which follow the same pattern as his stories.

Over the course of the script, the audience plays witness to a variety of emotions: the unconcerned brutality of the policemen interviewing Katurian, the writer’s own despair, fear and nervousness, which eventually give way to concern when he finds out that his autistic brother Michael has also been called in for questioning.

The highlight of the play, without doubt, is Katurian’s writing. The stories — which are narrated by many of the characters in the play — are raw, gut-wrenching tales which obviously stem from a dark mind. In one of them, a young girl who believes she is a reincarnation of Jesus is crucified by her foster parents.

In another, a young boy who helps out a stranger is rewarded when the latter chops off his toes; although he is initially shocked, it soon transpires that the stranger is the Pied Piper of Hamlin, and in crippling the boy, he has actually saved his life.

The stories may be harsh, but Katurian’s own past is harsher. As the narrative continues, it is soon revealed that Katurian came from a rather strange home — while his parents adored and supported him, they made a nightly ritual of torturing his autistic brother with, among other implements, an electric drill. When Katurian finds out, he smothers his parents to death and takes his brother under his wing.

The title ‘Pillowman’, which bemuses the viewer at first, transpires to be the name of one of Katurian’s stories — that of a man made of pillows, who helps children who are destined to have unhappy futures by convincing them to kill themselves while they’re still young.

Katurian narrates the story to entertain his brother, Michael, while the two of them are confined in the cell together. Despite the fact that they might soon be executed — since the police suspect Katurian of engineering the murders which had recently taken place — the brothers share a touching camaraderie; this, however, soon comes to an end when Michael confesses to Katurian that he, in fact, had murdered the little children.

Siddarth Selvaraj, who directed the play, admitted that putting it together had been incredibly difficult.

“When we read the script, we were taken in by the story — but only after going ahead with it did we realise how challenging this play is from an acting, writing and logistical point of view.

But all these problems seemed surmountable because of how strong the script is,” he said, adding, “it’s a different sort of drama, but we’ve had a very positive response from the audience.”

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