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Staging Theatrical Child-Centric Violence: Aesthetic Ownership in The Pillowman

Staging Theatrical Child-Centric Violence: Aesthetic Ownership in The Pillowman
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Author(s): Matthew Hodge (William Peace University, USA)
Copyright: 2023
Pages: 23
Source title: Research Anthology on Modern Violence and Its Impact on Society
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Information Resources Management Association (USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7464-8.ch031


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Prolific and controversial British-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh has built a prominent career on genre-bending works that combine irreverent humor and aggressive violence. His award-winning black comedy play The Pillowman, which premiered in 2003 at London's renowned National Theatre, is one of the playwright's most well-known and divisive pieces of theatre. Arguably, the play's most memorable moments involve segments reenacting original twisted fairy tale-esque stories. The majority of McDonagh's dark tales center on children characters enduring acts of violence and cruelty, ultimately concluding with disturbing endings. The Pillowman script offers few instructions in its storytelling scenes, allowing—even demanding—artistic ownership of each production's unique aesthetic approach to the unsettling material. This chapter discusses the divisiveness of McDonagh's work, his inspiration from violence in historical fairy tales, and the sensitive considerations and controversies theatre leadership teams must ponder when staging fictionalized child-centric violence.

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