Disco Pigs – Lisa Chats with Courtney Powell. (Theatre Interview)
Disco Pigs is currently showing at The Sydney Fringe Festival
It is on at PACT.
I saw Disco Pigs earlier this year when it had a short run at The Fuse Box at The Factory Theatre. You can read my review here, but I was very impressed with Throwing Shade Theatre Companies efforts, particularly considering Disco Pigs isn’t the easiest of plays to translate to a foreign stage. It turns out Throwing Shade are performing a repeat season at this years Sydney Fringe Festival.
Here is what the website has to say about the play:
Two friends set out to celebrate their seventeenth birthdays through the nightclubs of Cork, a city lost in dance and pounding rave rhythms.
Pig and Runt are two inseparable violent creatures who share everything: birthday, language, worldview – and that moment when pop songs and life-changing orgasms flash by and last forever.
But this night everything will change, and which one will survive depends on which one can break free.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat with Courtney Powell who plays Runt in this Enda Walsh play, and ask her a few questions about what it was like to prepare for such a challenging role.
LT- Disco Pigs is a play very much set in a specific time and locale. When I first saw this production, I marveled at your ability to transform Runt into a girl we might recognise from the Sydney Suburbs. What did you do in your preparation to reveal this to us? Do you feel that Runt is a universal character?
CP – Thank you so much! I really wanted to make Runt someone who anyone might recognise from some facet of their lives. We all know that one person who is capable of so much more, but continually sabotages their success, by getting caught up with the wrong crowd. To prepare for Runt, I chose to present her bolshie attitude straight up, and have her hardened, world-wise attitude be her feature. Then, when her tenderness, regret, and horror at her situation, creeps through, it’s a stark contrast for the audience. I definitely drew on a lot of personal experiences – at times having to front with a hard exterior, at the expense of showing tenderness and empathy. Humanising Runt, next to a frustratingly oblivious Pig, weaves a tale of such personal agony, and we really felt that this was the truest way we could present these characters.
LT- Disco Pigs was first staged in 1996. How do you think its themes impact us twenty years later?
CP – I think the themes are still so relevant today. Fear, anger, and love are universal, and Disco Pigs showcases these themes in the formative years of Pig and Runt’s lives. Being a teenager is so difficult to navigate, and these characters’ struggle to fully comprehend life on their own, sometimes skewed, terms is endlessly fascinating. The thrills of sneaking into a pub, your first kiss, or the often-quashed fear of impending adulthood, are feelings that are imprinted on your memory forever. It’s hard not to reminisce about my own teen years whilst exploring Runt!
LT – Runt and Pig speak in a sort of code to each other. Did you find it challenging as a performer to relate to Enda Walsh’s language or to find a way to help the audience attach to it?
CP – Absolutely! As a performer, I’ve never encountered a more densely detailed script, that required so much work and attention. To not only be faced with perfecting an Irish accent, but a script that relied on a secondary code language, was a challenge I was excited and determined to overcome. We had an incredible dialect coach in Nick Curnow, and if you ever have the chance to work with him, jump at it! In terms of audience attachment, I do think it’s hard for an audience to lock into the accent, and also the characters’ shorthand, but Jeff (Pig) and I have worked really hard with Nick and Andrew to make it as coherent as possible. I hope that Jeff’s and my energy, and the attention we draw to our relationship, will make it clear (or at least entertaining!).
LT – Enda Walsh wrote Disco Pigs when he was breaking up with a girl who was a twin. Do you see a pessimistic slant on all relationships in the play, or is Runt’s optimism and hope enough to carry us through?
CP – I think that in spite of the fractured views she has on the relationships closest to her (Pig, her Mum, with authority), she is still determined to find something more in life. I think the audience’s hope that she does break away from her situation, keeps the audience engaged, and hopefully carries them through the play. Not to give too much away, but when she finally makes an incredibly important decision, it’s her attempting to seize control. For the first time, she realises that she’s at absolute rock bottom, and in this moment of catastrophe, she finally sees that she’s worth so much more – whether she can follow through with her personal revolution, is another question entirely.
LT – What do you do to prepare for such a high energy show?
CP – Jeff, Andrew, and I continually make each other laugh, so it’s definitely easy to help rev each other up before a show! Jeff and I are like two puppies, so running and jumping around before a show really helps us get into our bodies, and into emulating our seventeen year old characters’ energy. I’d say a lemon and ginger tea also helps, but I fear that’s not quite Runt’s drink of choice!
Disco Pigs was a joyful surprise for me earlier this year. Grab it while you can at The Sydney Fringe Festival. You won’t be disappointed.