Sunday, September 25, 2016

Disco Pigs - a roller-coaster of a ride conjuring up empathy, disgust & fascination

Two feral teenagers who have grown up together are on the threshold of adulthood and the verge of crisis. Over the seventy minutes of Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs, Darren and Sinéad – or ‘Pig’ and ‘Runt’ as they are better known – relate the tales of how they were born a second apart and came to live together, steal together and party together. The dialogue is delivered in a Cork street dialect that is fairly understandable once you tune into its babyish phrasing and sentence construction. (At times it reminded me of Dave Dougan’s play Makaronik with its invented language not altogether unlike English.)

Even before any words are spoken the audience grasp the nature of the playful pair skittering about the stage. Amongst the hedonism, the playing hard and the wild dancing, we learn about the hard knocks they’ve taken along the way and gradually realise the uneasy nature of the teenage coupling.

There’s plenty of humour amongst the grim reality. Runt looks at the students in the disco and utters her insight: “All them books stacked tall inside those oblong heads!”

Ciarán Owens and Amy Molloy stay on set for the full performance, with one occasionally donning headphones or pottering around the deeper recesses of their small flat, complete with mannequin dummies representing other characters in their tales, while the other delivers a monologue. They do well to stick to the accent and deliver the unfamiliar dialogue while keeping up the hyper-energetic action (albeit peppered with a few depressed moments) for the whole performance. It must be exhausting.
“He’s the best and the worst pal in the whole world.”

The vulnerability of these out of control lives is gradually exposed. At their closest they pull shapes in perfect harmony to the constant musical soundtrack that plays out of a 1980’s double-deck hi-fi. But this apparent unity covers over the chaotic dysfunction. Runt changes the subject every time Pig comes on too strong and it’s clear that she’s less and less comfortable with sharing the space and sharing her life with him. She longs for the tide to take her out and replace her with someone different, even “just for half an hour”. His violent reaction in the illusive Palace Disco brings matters to a head. Can the caged up and confused Runt escape and find freedom?

Disco Pigs is a roller-coaster of a ride which conjures up empathy, disgust and a fascination about whether Pig and Runt can ever escape each other’s orbit. Reading Rep’s production played in the Lyric Theatre, Belfast between 14-17 September and is now touring Cork, Galway, Waterford, Birmingham, Glasgow, Sheffield, and Salisbury. All venues hosting performances of Disco Pigs should have packets of Scampi Fries on sale in the bar afterwards!

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