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Pangdemonium: 'The Pillowman'

Pangdemonium’s production of 'The Pillowman' returns after a decade – and we quiz director Tracie Pang on what to expect in the darkly comic psycho thriller

The Pillowman, Adrian Pang
Photo: Crispian Chan Adrian Pang
By Rebecca Liew |

It’s a case of whoddunnit in a dark prison cell, where writer Katurian is being interrogated for a series of child murders that bear an uncanny semblance to the killings in the gruesome fairy tales he had himself penned. The lines between reality and fiction soon start to cross in a play that carries trappings of the Grimm Brothers and a Kafka tale. Before it opens this month, director Tracie Pang lets in on Pangdemonium’s restaging of the dark comedy by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh.

Is the reboot of The Pillowman something you’ve wanted to bring back for a long time now?

It’s one of Adrian Pang’s and my favourite plays, and we’d get asked about it every year by many people – so seeing as it’s been ten years since the last staging, it seemed the right time for a reboot. 

‘It’s nice to find “real” men, flaws and all, in a script’

What attracted you to the story?

It has everything we like in a play: it’s dark, funny and also very sad. It takes you on an emotional journey where you don’t know whom to root for and whom to believe, and there’s also a lot of egotism and machismo at every turn. It’s nice to find ‘real’ men, flaws and all, in a script. 

Three of the original cast members – Adrian Pang, Daniel Jenkins and Shane Mardjuki – are making a return. was the decision to bring them back a natural one?

Definitely. These guys really embodied the characters the first time ’round. We had developed such a tight relationship, and I wanted to return to that. [Original cast member] Michael Corbidge couldn’t join the restaging, so Andy Tear will be stepping into his role as Katurian’s brother. Andy’s got a natural understanding of the Britishness that’s inherent in the script, and his interpretation of the role will be quite different from Michael’s.

Tracie Pang

'We want the audience to be transported out of the interrogation room and be completely immersed in [Katurian's] story'

How is this restaging different from the original play that debuted in 2003 in London? 

I’ve never seen the original staging of the play or any versions of it. I kind of like it that way, because it means I have no outside influences or comparisons to make, so the staging will be solely my vision from start to end. 

Which bit was the most challenging to visually execute? 

Depicting Katurian’s short stories. We want the audience to be transported out of the interrogation room and be completely immersed in his story. Visually, we’re incorporating ideas based off graphic novels and are trying to work out using multimedia around the actors on stage.

How do you hope the audience will feel after watching this restaging?

I hope they’ll be left reeling – the story is such a roller coaster that they should feel like they’ve just come off one!

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