Writer: Enda Walsh
Director: John Haidar
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
The word “disco” may have been falling into disuse in the last couple of decades, but Irish writer Enda Walsh’s coming of age play Disco Pigs looks as sharp and relevant as ever in this 20th Anniversary revival.
Runt (Evanna Lynch) and Pig (Colin Campbell) were born at exactly the same time in the same hospital ward and have been almost inseparable up to their 17th Birthdays when their cocooned world is destined for a head-on crash with reality. Walsh pulls the Disney trick of placing human characteristics into animals and then he reverses it by making the animals people again. Runt and Pig snort and eat from a trough (accompanied by music from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake), as the play follows their adventures and misadventures until they come to realise the nature of the daunting challenges that lie ahead.
Runt and Pig are foolishly brave and oblivious to danger, bound together by an unspoken agreement that was forged when they emerged from their mothers’ wombs. Growing up in a world where Terry Wogan rules the airwaves, Jackie Charlton rules in Football and Baywatch is the not-to-be-missed television treat, the pair’s ultimate paradise lies inside the Palace disco, a treasure trove of colour, flashing lights and pulsating rhythms. It is here that fantasy and reality eventually collide. High energy performances make these pigs fly and Lynch and Campbell should be able to cut back on gym session for quite a while.
The comic escapades are underpinned by Walsh’s firm understanding that childhood never slides neatly into adulthood and the writer finds the play’s most poignant moments from the pieces that do not fit. Pig was programmed almost at birth to be Runt’s protector, but now he feels overwhelmed by grown-up instincts that he struggles to comprehend. Runt is torn between wanting to welcome Pig’s friendship and needing to fend off his amorous advances. “I want the tide to take me out of myself” she murmurs wistfully as she stares at the sea and both actors bring to fruition such moments of tenderness and internal conflict with immense subtlety
Running for 75 minutes, John Haidar’s production makes no concessions to London audiences, allowing a strong Irish dialect to prevail throughout. Runt and Pig’s private coded language puzzles further, yet, perversely, the fact that many specific words and phrases are indecipherable enriches rather than diminishes the lyricism in Walsh’s writing, much as can happen with Shakespeare. Superb lighting, designed by Elliot Griggs enhances both the disco sequences and the tones of other scenes in this exhilarating revival of a lively, inventive and moving play.
Runs until 19 August 2017 | Image: Alex Brenner