Charity PEN International is partnering with the the forthcoming new West End production of Martin McDonagh’s play The Pillowman.
PEN International promotes the importance of literature and defending freedom of expression, and was started in 1921.
As part of the partnership, PEN will hold a series of events and initiatives to highlight the themes tackled by McDonagh in the play.
The Pillowman stars Lily Allen (2:22 A Ghost Story), Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen), Paul Kaye and Matthew Tennyson, and is directed by Matthew Dunster (Shirley Valentine).
The play starts at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 10 June 2023, and runs to 2 September 2023.
In the play writer Katurian (Lily Allen) lives in a police state, and is interrogated about the content of her short stories and their similarities to several murders occurring in the town.
Throughout the production, the collaboration will see a series of activities featuring the participation of award-winning writers, including PEN International President Burhan Sonmez, Mona Arshi, Yann Martel and Ben Okri, among others.
Activities will include three post-show Q&As and essays about the role of the writer in contemporary times, resonating and compounding the themes of the play, and on how writers have often been looked upon to critically engage in what makes us human.
Burhan Sonmez, writer and President of PEN International said in a statement: “This captivating play examines the role of the writer in society and reflects on the price paid for exercising the right we all have, to freedom of expression. At PEN, we are proud to be working with this production of The Pillowman, and participate in this ambitious project that supports many of the values we promote such as the need for tolerance, critical thinking and informed debate.”
James Bierman producer of The Pillowman, said: “All of us involved in The Pillowman are honoured to work with Pen International, which since its inception in 1921, has worked with writers across the world who are persecuted for putting their ideas into words. These writers rely on PEN International to stand up for their right to freedom of expression, and we hope that by joining forces, we can help shine some light on their important work. With the growing number of writers under attack, PEN’s mission today is more vital than ever. In the real world it would be PEN who would be campaigning for Katurian’s release and so it’s important we then use the platform of the play to campaign for them.”
Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi and a member of PEN International’s Writers Circle said: “Theatre has the power to change things for the better, and with this exciting partnership between PEN International and the new production of The Pillowman, the light will shine more brightly on the freedoms essential to writers and artists around the world.”
Ben Okri, author and member of PEN International’s Writer’s Circle, said: “How governments handle dissenting voices is often a measurement of how they handle human freedoms at large. This partnership honours all writers and artists silenced for simply expressing their views peacefully, and sends a powerful message in their support, everywhere – at a time when freedom of expression is increasingly under threat.”
More about tickets to The Pillowman at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London
Duke of York's Theatre, London