Disco Pigs

Wed 10th – Sat 13th October 2012

reviews

James Bell

at 02:44 on 11th Oct 2012

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What is the colour of love? Just one of the unanswerable questions Runt asks of Pig in the Pembroke Players' late show production of Disco Pigs this week at the ADC. Although certainly not flawless, the production was ambitious and the acting generally superb; this is a show well worth seeing, a challenging meditation on nascent desires, the uncontrollability of passions and what it means to grow up.

The action revolves around Pig (male) and Runt (female), two 17 year olds born minutes apart and who since then have shared their childhood and adolescence. The relationship, addled with drugs and alcohol, is insular but safe. However, as Runt begins to explore the wider world outside the cocoon of what she knows, this existence begins to fracture. The growing sexuality of both characters was portrayed with poise and balance, conveying the excitement and uncertainty of teenage desire, with Pig’s monologue a highlight of the performance as a whole. The choice of music was particularly apt here as the production used tracks that will be familiar to the audience and so unearth memories which perhaps chime with what we were viewing on stage. The play’s second main theme, that of violence, was also generally well handled. It was never gratuitous, which made its emotional impact all the more potent. The pathos of Pig singing a love song to Runt while she is repeatedly beaten by an invisible attacker was particularly moving.

This decision to exclude all other characters from an actual physical stage presence paid off. In such a pared down production I felt grateful to be able to focus on the two main protagonists as they break free from the juvenile fantasy world they created for themselves. However, I felt the set design, while sparse enough not to be distracting, and which fittingly suggested a little the squalid blankness of the crack den in Requiem for a Dream, could have better reflected the transition the characters were going through. The various spaces (their homes, a disco, a pub, the street, the vantage point over the sea) all melted into one another, whereas I would have liked to have seen greater demarcation between the safe space of their respective houses (described in terms of the womb by the protagonists) and the threatening public spaces where each acts out their hidden fantasies and grapples with insecurity.

The riskiest aspect of the production, the reworked Burgessian Hiberno-English dialect of Ireland's County Cork, was well dealt with and didn't become a distraction, as it so easily could have. It fulfilled the function of making the characters and their world strange to the audience as well as underlining the extreme insularity of the relationship between Pig and Runt, but at times I felt myself losing the sense of what the characters were saying; perhaps a slightly slower delivery would solve this problem. The question of the humour in the lines was also a little problematic, and this was reflected in the audience’s unsure tittering. Sentiments which I felt were conveying the hopelessness of the characters’ situation through a masking, defensive humour instead came across as a gambit for cheap laughs. It’s a fine line to walk, but one that can markedly change the tone of the performance.

In my view, the most successful moment in the show came as the couple sat looking over the river Lee. Pig’s advances have been rejected and his violence reached its peak. There is a long silence which weighs heavily, an impasse in their relationship, as Pig desperately tries to think of the words to reconnect with Runt. The actors convey so much emotion and uncertainty in that silence that I feel the last scene could have packed more of a punch in response to it. As Runt contemplates suicide, her lines are delivered as if in quiet resignation as the light fades, as if in total certainty despite all the questioning which came before. As this fell short of a tone of quiet desperation, something more impassioned, more in keeping with the angst and teenage acting out which came before would have left me feeling more riled stepping out of the theatre.

In sum, the production suffers from some flaws, but is nevertheless affecting and is carried by the unbridled energy of the two performers.

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