FRANCESCA HILL on a play that sometimes rocked, but occasionally left her in the dark.
ADC, Wednesday 10th – Saturday 13th October, 11pm, £4/5
Dir. Charlie Risius
Rarely have I spent so much of a play feeling dazed and confused. But perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
Set in ’90s Cork, Disco Pigs follows Pig (George Johnston) and Runt (Maria Pawlikowska) as they ricochet around the town on their seventeenth birthday. Inseparable since birth, their world is defined by their unstable and ultimately destructive friendship, and regularly punctuated with heavy drinking and violence.
It’s not an easy play for either cast or audience. Fast-paced, and sometimes weighed down by an invented language which binds the two characters and excludes the audience, it relies on the cast’s ability to immediately switch between extremes of emotion. Pawlikowska and Johnston rise to the challenge: equally convincing when kicking faces in, contemplating the emptiness of their joint future or bouncing off the walls with excitement. Think Boy meets Girl meets Clockwork Orange.
The physicality of the production is undoubtedly one of its strengths, and the relationship between the two is always credible. Runt’s constantly shifting expression is as compelling as the outbursts from Pig to which she responds; Pig’s increasingly desperate attempts to raise the spirits of a bruised and bleeding Runt are amongst the evening’s most poignant moments.
That’s not to say the performances are perfect. Johnston in particular often struggles with the Cork accent, and Disco Pigs takes some time to find its dancing feet. In the latter half, laughs came regularly, providing some unexpected (and much-appreciated) relief. In the early stages, however, some rather frenzied delivery meant the audience was fully occupied trying to work out what the hell was going on.
Admittedly, part of this confusion stems from Enda Walsh’s script. The cast of two are alone responsible for all of the encounters taking place on their jaunt, with individual conversations either enacted with help from the other, or conducted with thin air. These are occasionally muddled, but generally carried off well. One of the more impressive scenes sees Pawlikowska rolling convincingly beneath the punches of an unseen opponent, with Johnston completely oblivious and singing karaoke on the other side of the dance-floor. Much of the humour is darkly bizarre.
Director Charlie Risius takes a well-aimed swing at what is ultimately a very challenging play. Iffy accents aside, the acting in Disco Pigs is of a very high standard, and this anthem to doomed youth makes absorbing viewing.