Saturday, February 10, 2018

Disco Pigs - the Pangs of Youth

Reviewed by Judd Hollander

It’s great to have a best friend when you’re a child. Someone you can tell secrets to, watch television with, and just hang out together. But as one grows up, things start to change – sometimes forever. It’s a point shatteringly brought home in Enda Walsh’s 1996 drama, Disco Pigs. A powerful revival of which is currently taking place at the Irish Repertory Theatre.

In 1996 Cork City, Cork County, Ireland, seventeen year-olds Pig (Colin Campbell) and Runt (Evanna Lynch), are the best of mates, and have been almost from the moment of their birth. Both from the same neighborhood, they were born in the same hospital on the same day, placed side by side in the hospital nursery, and have been inseparable ever since. Hailing from working class families, things don’t always come easy to them. The two in recent times, venting their frustrations with actions that fall outside the law. Pig in particular getting great satisfaction from trashing liquor stores and beating up those who stand in his way. All while Runt looks on, offering moral and vocal support. Their current enjoyment of choice - other than drinking and getting into trouble - is disco music, with their holy grail being a place called “The Palace Disco”.

Lately however, things have started to change for the two, with neither as content as they once were. Pig is grappling with raging hormones, and begins to see Runt as a woman for the first time. He wanting her every way in that regard. Runt, on the other hand, is beginning to realize that there is a world beyond the narrow streets of Cork City. As evidenced when she starts looking at her fellow schoolmates while wondering what will happen to their them, as well as to her and Pig, in the times to come.

Told in a combination of recollections, real time and tangents, Walsh’s writing has never felt more alive or more filled with imagery. Lynch and Campbell performing on what is basically a bare stage, yet they are able to transform their surroundings to a gritty urban neighborhood; a quiet beach with the waves breaking just out of sight; and a flashy nightclub/disco. While the dialogue can be quite hard to follow, told in an Irish street slang of the time – “Cork City” being pronounced as “Pork Sity” for example - the feelings presented are completely universal as Pig and Runt alternatively lash out and begin to question everything they know. Going hand in hand with this is the reality of inevitable change, as the life Pig and Runt once had threatens to come crashing down in a torrent of rage, music and desperation. All of which will ultimately test their friendship as never before.

Campbell gives a powerhouse performance as Pig. A young man with an ever-present, almost sadistic air of menace, this quintessential rebel-without-a-cause often seems far older than his years. Yet he also possesses a sensitive soul. Pig’s soliloquy concerning his feelings toward Runt is both quite heartfelt and totally sensual. The speech showcasing both his baser desires and his dreams of a scenario which would cement the two's relationship forever. Another example of Pig’s gentler side occurs when he takes Runt to the beach one night, thus offering her a small respite from their usual gritty haunts.Though he does harass their cabdriver more than once during the trip.

Colin Campbell and Evanna Lynch in DISCO PIGS
 (photo credit: Jeremy Daniel)

Lynch is excellent as Runt. At first an almost tagalong sort, we soon begin to see her starting to break away from Pig as she begins to question her lifestyle, while wanting to experience something other than what she’s always known. A feeling which crystallizes when she starts interacting with people other than Pig. The result being that she starts to see Pig differently for the first time, and may not be all that happy that she does.

It also helps that Campbell and Lynch have a wonderful chemistry together. The two playing off each other perfectly. Their characters feeling totally in synch in the beginning, yet beginning to grow apart as the show progresses.

John Haidar directs the show with sure and steady hand. Using the text as a guide, he allows the actors free reign to basically explode off the stage. While at the same time, making sure the images and feelings that result are completely understandable to the audience. Even if the dialogue may not always be. Particularly effective are the fight scenes where Pig pounds a character, unseen by the audience, into the dirt. Said actions coming across as brutally real.

Focusing on the themes of teenage angst and the inevitability of change, while giving these guideposts a rather refreshing twist, Disco Pigs offers a frightening look at two young people trying to make their way in a world that is no longer as simple as they once thought it to be.

Featuring Evanna Lynch (Runt), Colin Campbell (Pig).

Disco Pigs
By Enda Wash

Set & Lighting Design: Richard Kent
Lighting Design: Elliot Griggs
Sound Design: Giles Thomas
Movement Director: Naomi Said
Assistant Designer: Rachel Stone
Assistant Director: Nathan Markiewicz
Production Stage Manager: April Ann Kline
Press Representative: Matt Ross Public Relations
General Manager: Lisa Fine
Directed by John Haidar

The Tara Finney Productions
20th Anniversary Production of Disco Pigs

Presented by the Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
Tickets: 212-727-2737 or
Running Time: 80 minutes, no intermission
Closes March 4, 2018

No comments: