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The Boy Who Kicked Pigs – The Lowry, Salford

From the original book by: Tom Baker

Director &Writer: Clem Garrity

Composer: Ben Osborn

Reviewer: Jo Beggs


Tom Baker’s The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is a cult classic, a contemporary morality tale, with more than a touch of the absurd. It’s not the most likely book to adapt for the stage, but Writer/Director Clem Garrity and Lowry Producer Porl Cooper, both long-term fans of the book, rose to the challenge of reflecting its linguistic humour and shabby visuals, and have created a suitably irreverent and grotesque piece of performance, which surely has a bright future.

Robert Caligari (David Cumming) is a strange boy who gets his kicks from kicking pigs. The most unfortunate recipient of this horrible habit is Trevor the tin piggy bank, property (and best friend) of Robert’s little sister Nerys (Natasha Hodgson). Poor Trevor gets a right kicking around which leads him to question Robert’s motives. At first a little startled by the rather eloquent little tin pig, Robert is soon taking his advice…which turns out to be a bad idea.

Meanwhile at the Kent Clarion work placement Phillip is waiting desperately for the moment when something newsworthy happens. He doesn’t have long to wait, though, once Robert manages to get his hands on a crossbow, and, though a complicated, and hilarious, series of coincidences, creates a huge motorway pile-up and turns the town into an inferno.

Kill The Beast’s production, while retaining the simplicity and humour of Baker’s original story, takes the plot in a number of new directions. Garrity has successfully mirrored the tone of the book without feeling the need to recreate it word for word. It’s a bold move given its cult audience but a wise one, ensuring this is a genuine piece of theatre rather than what could have so easily been a pale imitation. The company create a whole visual style that’s perhaps a little more Tim Burton than David Roberts (the illustrator of Baker’s book) within which Nina Scott’s amazing costumes and Brian Woltjen’s backdrops play a key part, establishing a whole weird world, which, given the confines of the studio space, is a challenge well met.

The ensemble company of four actors create scene after scene of chaotic and mesmerizing activity, and switch from one character to the next at a dizzying pace and to hilarious effect. It’s likely that this will get even tighter the longer the production runs and there’s a section in he middle of the piece that could use this. The shabbily clad actors set against Woltjen’s brilliant animated pencil drawing backdrops are like characters in a graphic novel come to life, not least in the final, gory scene where Robert, twisted and broken among a tangle of tree roots, is attacked by rats. It’s possibly the most well delivered moment of black humour I have ever seen on stage. A suitably horrid end for a horrid boy. A suitably brilliant end for this little theatrical gem.

Runs until 23 June 2012

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One comment

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    Really, really brilliant. Could not recommend it enough. Am only sad that i saw it on it’s last night at the Lowry so i can’t advise my friends to go and see it. I really hope it gets put on at other places in the future and will certainly be looking out for more ‘Kill the Beast’ productions. An absolute triumph!