Review: The Pillowman (Rarely Pure Theatre)

Toronto’s Rarely Pure Theatre stages a macabre The Pillowman

Intermission came less as a relief than a provocation.

What happens next to the young writer at the core of The Pillowman?

In the queue to the washroom patrons were buzzing. The thing I heard – okay, overheard – again and again is how violent and creepy the material is.

Really, it seemed, anything was possible in the upcoming act.

Though I’d read the text; that was years ago. So, while many of the horrific details had stayed with me, I couldn’t remember with confidence how his Kafka-esque interrogation ends exactly.

Adding to the nearly total immersion in the story I think we all felt– at least those of the audience in the washroom cue – was the space.

The venue is a storefront gallery called Propeller. “It reminds me of Red Sandcastle,” one patron noted, referring to a theatre in Leslieville. One of my favorites, incidentally, for its eclectic line-up; a mixture of relatively unknown material – Alice in Blunderland, for example – and better known works – Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and reasons to be pretty – were in last year’s season.

True to its daytime purpose, the walls are adorned with art. A touch that got a lot of praise from patrons I talked to – this time not in line for the, well, you know. Illustrations were projected for a few minutes at a time during the show.

Because The Pillowman has quite a few lengthy passages of pure storytelling, essentially monologues, with modest action onstage, the projections I found were a visual relief.

Playing one of the officials interrogating the young writer, a role shouldered by Chris George, is Davydd Cook.

Cook gave a terrific performance, I think. Just so cool and confident; the way I’d expect a detective to be in a police state.

Cook also does a good job with the sly humor of The Pillowman, which, unfortunately, didn’t quite ignite the night I attended. But I think – I hope – gains more momentum in nights to come.

Overall, it’s a very strong offering from Rarely Pure Theatre, that I’d strongly recommend checking out.



The Pillowman is playing at the Propeller Gallery (984 Queen West) until Sunday, March 3rd
– The show begins at 8:00 PM
– Tickets cost $10.00
– Tickets can be purchased at the door, or