Disco Pigs

Tue 1st – Sat 5th May 2012


Aoife Sullivan

at 23:52 on 1st May 2012



The Alma Tavern Theatre was the ideal location for the Enda Kelly play Disco Pigs because it provided the perfect combination of intimacy and distance. The audience feel connected to the individual performers, but also feel alienated by the obsessive relationship the play centres around.

Despite the play being set in Cork, a city in Ireland, the themes are entirely universal. There are many cultural references, such as those to ‘The Echo’ (an evening paper in Cork) and ‘Sinn Féin’, a political party associated with the IRA, but these do not alienate a primarily English audience.

The play was part of the ‘Director’s Cuts’ showcase put on by the Old Vic Theatre School. Directed by Anna Simpson and designed by Max Dorey, the production was extremely professionally executed. The set was fairly minimal, but perfectly thought out. It consisted of a slightly raised platform covered in graffiti, including a smiling face with a snout sprayed on, and the word ‘Cork’ edited with spray paint to depict the word ‘pork’. This immediately set the tone for the play; the image of a 1990’s Cork encapsulated, while still making reference to the close and intense relationship of the protagonists. The costume also epitomised the 90’s youth, from the fluorescent hair extensions to the nylon tracksuit trousers.

The play had a cast of two, both of whom were on stage for the duration of the play and were convincing for the entirety. The play required regional Irish accents, which were well maintained despite a few pronunciation flaws. The actors projected to fill the whole theatre resulting in the only very occasional problem of discerning particular words when the actors were talking over music.

There were many pleasing directorial ideas, including use of physical theatre. The scene where the two characters are getting ready for a night at the disco was entirely choreographed and was a well placed visual break from the dialogue, giving the actors a chance to exaggerate their character for a comedic effect. Small movements were also utilised to enhance the dynamic of relationship, such as the subtle holding of hands. It was these small gestures that really held the audiences belief in the characters’ relationship, and also showed the subtle breakdown of the relationship throughout the play.

Music, sound effects and lighting were used flawlessly to aid the characters development and to provoke audience reaction, the most effective of these being the heartbeat during the climax of the play: Pig is violently attacking an innocent man in the club, with a heartbeat underscoring the action. The mere presence of this gives the audience an indication of what is to come; the sound fading was the ideal way of allowing complete audience comprehension without explicit explanation.

The chemistry between the actors was so convincing one would think they had been friends for years. Pig and Runt, played by Edmund Digby-Jones and Faye Marsay respectively, did an astounding job of portraying the rude and grotesque teens, but also the tender and more mature aspect of the character. The childlike moments of friendship were portrayed by both actors with unrivalled energy and their monologues were a wonderful contrast to this, making them all the more enthralling. The monologue where Pig declares his lustful feelings towards Runt to the audience is a soft and heartfelt confession of his tender feelings and infatuation. It truly captivated the audience, and made them fully aware of the palpable feelings that Pig is harbouring, causing the rest of the play to be even more heart-wrenching. Runt’s penultimate monologue is a moment in the play where the audience can feel real empathy for the character. She confesses her ambitions and explains that Pig is the best and the worst pal in the world. This one sentence seems to succinctly express all the feeling behind the relationship: how Pig’s sexual interests and violent nature, and Runt’s ambitions are making it impossible to continue as they are; how their relationship was once great, but was perpetually doomed to failure.

The play achieved a perfect equilibrium of comedy and tragedy that resulted in a poignant and well received piece of theatre.


Kate Tatlow

at 01:09 on 2nd May 2012



Disco Pigs explores and challenges the relationship between two young Irish people whose lives have been connected since their births which were just moments apart. The fast paced performance as part of Bristol Old Vic Theatre Schools Directors’ Cuts season poured energy out into the audience and ensured I will still be thinking about its unconventional love story far into the future.

Pig and Runt think of themselves as king and queen of a fantasy world they have built exclusively for themselves in self enforced isolation from reality and adulthood. They live solely for each other, committing acts of violence and theft until their seventeenth birthday when they realise they both want different things from their relationship and Disco Pigs maps the consequences this brings.

Edmund Digby-Jones as Pig and Faye Marsay as Runt were captivating, bringing constant vitality to the stage - which neither left for the duration of the performance. Their precise timings and simultaneous movements gave even more of a sense that the characters were living their lives as one, and for the short moments when Pig and Runt were on opposing sides of the stage, I didn’t know who to focus on more. Pig seemed vulnerable yet manic and obnoxious throughout; at times I didn’t know what he would do or strike next, despite having seen the film version of the story. In moments of silence focused on Runt, she showed there was still some rationality in Pig’s world of chaos. I enjoyed the actors Irish accents, which didn’t make the exclusive colloquial language in which Pig and Runt communicate any harder to understand.

I found the use of background noise - such as the sound of car doors and the sea - effective and necessary to illustrate changes in location in a performance where there were so few props and scenery. Loud heartbeats tied together the beginning, where Pig and Runt are seen almost as one in the womb, and the climax when Pig’s violence spirals more out of control than the audience have seen before. The simple set and lighting made me focus utterly on the two characters and is a testament to the actors’ ability to tell their story through mime and movement, however it did feel almost too stark at times.

Despite how hard Pig and Runt’s world is to break into and Pig’s increasing psychosis, the performances enabled me to feel sympathy for the desperation of both characters. For Runt: the realisation that she can live a life without Pig, and her need to do so. And for Pig as he begins to understand that he is losing the only one constant he has ever known.


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