Disco Pigs – Throwing Shade brings fresh light. (Theatre Review)

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Disco Pigs

Throwing Shade Theatre Company, January 7-9 2016

The Fuse Box, The Factory Theatre. You can grab tickets here.

The Fuse Box at The Factory theatre is a nice little space for the claustrophobic world of Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs, that play that describes  and foresees the life of its two protagonists squashed into the meaningful events of a day or two. It’s a tale of erratic and ecstatic love born of geographical convenience that may or may not be able to withstand the duel pressures of its own obsessions and a world at odds with it. Disco Pigs is a respectful piece of theatre writing, that honours both its protagonists with deep characterisation while observing the unhealthy relationship as a controlling entity when defined by the world. Both Pig (male) and Runt (female) are victims of their love and passion for each other and despite being forced into different roles in order to express that passion, both use the societal emphasis on their biological difference to find their way back to each other. It’s a fascinating study of romance, relationships and the destructive oppression of poverty.

This current production of Disco Pigs now playing at The Fuse Box has been put together by Throwing Shade Theatre Company, and its well worth taking a look. The performances by Runt (Courtney Powell) and Pig (Jeff Hampson) are each an enthusiastic immersion. Emphasis on the child like language written by Walsh framed by the Irish accents, work well to draw the audience into the theatre world. Staging and lighting is kept very simple so the narrative is held almost entirely by the performances and the nuanced direction by Andrew Langcake. It’s a bold production that brings its own take on the story to the foreground. Rather than emphasis on the romantic power of the connection between the two, the pair look outward into the audience, emphasising the idea of a united front born of an external undiagnosed oppression rather than a spiritual style of connection between the two that was emphasised by the 2003 film for example. This helps Disco Pigs cross national borders, and places an emphasis on the conditions surrounding the pair, so that we feel as though we might have been Pig or Runt but for our different circumstances. The mixed feelings of envy for the relationship and fear for their connection are still in strong supply as the audience watches, but here in Australia, we feel very close to the action despite it being a very “Cork” play.

Andrew Langcake’s direction draws the usually alienating baby language into a natural realism, that splits the definition of the relationship into their easy banter opposed to the stylised scenarios the pair play out in public. Their language, especially so regularly directed toward the audience, evokes a world of togetherness, while the scenarios where Pig is forced into his masculinity and Runt into her femininity seem imposed from outside upon the couple. The tragic final moments of the play support this reading by Langcake and give Disco Pigs an exciting edge that taps into a very contemporary discourse.

Courtney Powell’s Runt, while still true to the text, isn’t as otherworldly as previous versions of her character have seemed. Instead, she plays Runt like a Sydney girl from the suburbs, a  seventeen year old white trash baby who has been a regular at the pubs she sneaks into for years by the time we meet her. This simple and yet brilliant twist ground Runt’s romanticism in the moment child becomes adult highlighting Runt’s sudden recognition of choice. Powell’s performance is wild and erratic, and her connection to Pig one of loyalty and familiarity, rather than the embodiment of the spirituality of their connection. Powell presents us with a Runt waking up to possibility.

Jeff Hampson’s Pig, on the contrary, seems determined to remain a child, forging the shape of their soon to be adult relationship in the childishness he clings to. Despite being the stronger and the big fighter of the two, Pig is the less mature, but Hampson plays him with an innocent core that clings to his relationship with Runt as though he has an intuitive awareness of its potential for his own salvation. Hampson shows real delicacy when he portrays a man capable of beating another man to death with his fists while equally fearing the growing fragility of his relationship. Hampson posits Pigs fragility against Runt’s growing awareness and the result is a startlingly clear depiction of the horror love can turn into inside our own heads.

This is a lovely little production, running for only three nights at The Fuse Box, so make it part of your festival activities quick smart.

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