I would like to begin by saying that the Pillowman was an excellent piece of theatre that I enjoyed, but at the same time I felt that the play has many complex themes and images that would take a lot of time to unpack. Therefore, I can’t cover all of them but I feel there are some important elements in the play to consider.
The first thing that really caught my eye during the play was the setting and stage design. One of the most important themes within the play was the feeling of being trapped, and the stage design encourages this theme because each setting makes it appear as though the characters are trapped. For instance, the interrogation room has angled walls that make the room seem smaller and a cage like pattern etches the walls. Also, the flashback scenes with house are a cage as well because the house is just frame that contains a trauma—like child abuse—and nothing happens outside of the house. Even the audience feels this sense of being trapped because of the experimental theatre, and through out the entire play I felt confined, tense, and hot. I felt as though I was being drawn into the play and was trapped just like the characters on stage. The stage design and location enhanced these feelings of confinement, drew the audience into the play, and helped me understand that an abusive experience traps people, whether that trap is literal like the interrogation room or mental like that of the traumatic experience.
Another element to the play that I really enjoyed was the play’s idea that a story is a metaphor. And I found it interesting that each character had a story, usually in the form of a metaphor, to explain their current predicament. These stories were usually presupposed with the phrase, “that reminds me…” which I felt was the most loaded line of the entire play. But overall, I felt that the play was a metaphor for the cruelty of life—and that can be an abusive relationship or living within a totalitarian state—and the characters used metaphors to highlight this point. Therefore, I felt metaphors were used to explain a greater metaphor that we all should all consider: where does the human element end and the animal begin?