by Marilyn Lester
The Tara Finney anniversary production of Disco Pigs is a completely stunning piece of theater. In 75 minutes of nonstop action, Evanna Lynch as Runt and Colin Campbell as Pig deliver a symphonically kinetic, explosive performance guaranteed to stick to your ribs for a long time to come. Tour de force does not begin to cover their commitment to Enda Walsh’s piercing, neo-Joycean work. In its 20-year life the play has won numerous awards and received almost unanimous, well-deserved critical acclaim. It’s a play that is as perfectly and completely self-contained as the world it portrays—the relationship between the inseparable Pig and Runt.
Pig and Runt were born at the same time on the same day in the same hospital. Cleverly, their first appearance is through flaps at the back of the stage. Even as they make their way through their respective birth canals the two have plenty to say about their ma’s and da’s and the world these adults inhabit. In the seventeen years since their birth, we learn the pair (who’ve grown up physically adjacent to one another) still have a lot to talk about. In those years they’ve forged an “us against the world” bond. Their exclusivity is complete and self-contained. Pig and Runt march to their own tune and speak their own language—no one else need apply. But as we meet them on their seventeenth birthday, it’s also on the cusp of where childhood’s permissiveness ends and the realities of adulthood encroach.
Relevant to the character development of Pig and Runt is the setting of the play: Cork City, Ireland. Dubliner Walsh’s choice of place provides context to who these two young mavericks are. Cork City, the second largest in the Republic, in the county known as “Rebel Cork,” was a keystone of the war of independence from Britain. Rebellion is deeply rooted in the city’s character. Cork is also noted for its unique accent (which sharply rises and falls in a musical cadence) and for its own peculiar dialect and fondness for slang. The rough and tumble Pig and Runt, denizens of what we’d call “projects,” are spot on Northsiders, perfect mirrors of their environment and ultimately their national heritage. The dialogue is tough to understand, even for the most attuned ear; yet what the pair communicate in expression and action speaks volumes.
Costume (and set) designer Richard Kent has dressed Pig and Runt in the typical gear of 1990s club kids (their one nod to conformity). They rave, rage, go disco, drink, drug and otherwise do their thing at a breakneck pace, akin to the energy and buoyancy of the time—the era when Ireland was emerging into the period of economic prosperity known as the Celtic Tiger. Everything seemed possible then, even for kids from the Northside. That “can do” attitude is mirrored in the extravagance of Pig hiring a cab for a 16-mile midnight drive to Crosshaven (where the River Lee meets the Atlantic) just so Runt can see the ocean for the first time. It’s a sweet and tender act of devotion, the flip side of Pig’s fighting nature—a violence uncontained by his awakening to manhood. Herein lies the beginning of the end of their exclusivity. The love Pig and Runt feel for each other begins to fracture. He wants more, seeing the natural evolution of their lives together on a physically romantic level. Runt wants more too, only not that—she’s seen a wider world in that view of the ocean. She knows the increasingly more violent and claustrophobic world she inhabits with Pig will no longer be enough, and she says so. These last words in the play are Runt’s and they’re said at sunrise, with the dawning of a bright, new day.
This pitch perfect production of Disco Pigs owes much to the wizardry of director John Haidar, aided by the extensive and dynamic work of movement director, Naomi Said. This kinetic and poetic gymnastic dance is played out on a nearly bare stage, dramatically lit to perfection by Elliot Griggs. Sound design by Giles Thomas is a superb armature upon which the sound elements of the piece are hung.
Disco Pigs. Through February 18 at Irish Repertory Theatre (132 West 22nd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), 75 minutes, no intermission. www.irishrep.org
Photos: Jeremy Daniel