Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (pictured) will return to the National Theatre this autumn to star in the world premiere of the latest "disturbing" black comedy by Martin McDonagh. The Pillowman opens at the NT Cottesloe on 13 November 2003 (previews from 7 November).

Broadbent has previously appeared at the National in The Government Inspector and A Place with the Pigs, while his stage credits elsewhere include Habeas Corpus (Donmar), A Flea in Her Ear (Old Vic) and work with comedy troupe The National Theatre of Brent, of which he was a founder member.

Internationally, Broadbent has become best known for his extensive film and television work which includes The Gathering Storm, Life Is Sweet, Little Voice, Topsy Turvy, Bridget Jones' Diary, Moulin Rouge, Gangs of New York, Nicholas Nickleby and, playing John Bayley opposite Judi Dench as Iris Murdoch, Iris, for which he won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2002.

In The Pillowman, a writer (played by David Tennant, nominated for this year's Best Actor Olivier for Lobby Hero at the Donmar and in the West End) in a totalitarian state is interrogated about the gruesome content of his short stories and their similarities to a number of child-murderers that are happening in his town.

Also in the cast are Adam Godley (Private Lives, Mouth to Mouth and Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick) and Nigel Lindsay (The Tempest, Bedroom Farce and The Real Thing). The production is directed by John Crowley (whose productions as an associate director at the Donmar included Tales from Hollywood, Juno and the Paycock and Into the Woods) and is designed by Scott Pask, with lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Paul Arditti.

Though born and raised in London, Martin McDonagh has, to date, set all of his plays in his parents' native Ireland. These critically acclaimed but often controversial works have included The Cripple of Inishmaan and The Lieutenant of Inishmore as well The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara and Lonesome West, known collectively as The Leenane Trilogy. With its eastern European-type setting, The Pillowman will be the first non-Irish set play by McDonagh, though, in common with its predecessors, it comes complete with a warning that it "contains scenes and language that may offend and is not suitable for children".


As the National prepares to premiere The Pillowman, McDonagh's last black farce for the stage, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, makes ready for its first UK tour, which opens on 2 September 2003 at Cardiff's New Theatre before continuing until 11 November to Bath, Bromley, Westcliff-on-Sea, Dublin, Canterbury, Glasgow, Richmond, Milton Keynes and Salford.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore begins with the seemingly accidental death of a cat run over on a lonely road on the island of Inishmore in Ireland. Unfortunately, the deceased belongs to paramilitary 'Mad Padriac', currently out of town on a torture and chip shop bombing, who will no doubt be deeply disturbed by the premature passing of his beloved pet.

After others shied away from the politically controversial script, the Royal Shakespeare Company premiered The Lieutenant of Inishmore at Stratford in April 2001. It later transferred to the Barbican and on to the West End's Garrick in 2002, winning this year's Olivier for Best New Comedy.

On tour, Paul Lloyd remains from the West End cast, while Wilson Milam again directs. The production is presented by Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Edward Snape for Fiery Angel, by arrangement with Adam Kenwright, Nick Starr and Vida Ulemek.

And, finally, not to be confused with the National Theatre's presentation of The Pillowman, Not the National Theatre will revive McDonagh's Tony Award-winning 1996 play The Beauty of Leenane. That production has a brief run at London's Bloomsbury Theatre from 3 to 6 September 2003 before embarking on further regional dates.

- by Terri Paddock